What are we learning about Intergenerational Transfer of Childhood Poverty? A case study of Young Lives Project.

A response paper by Irene K. Nyamu, Kenya (November 2014).

Millions of children in developing countries begin their lives already poor. Many of them are unlikely to ever bridge the gap between them and their richer counterparts despite numerous global efforts to reverse this trend. Part of the problem lies in the growing inequality and increased vulnerability occasioned by harmful prescriptive socio-economic policies imposed on the developing countries that greatly reduced access to basic social welfare services and negatively impacting economic growth. Any policies aimed at alleviating poverty and interrupting its transfer to the next generation has to confront these structural and multidimensional aspects of child vulnerability.

This paper examines merits of the call for a life-course approach to childhood poverty by considering the contributions of Young Lives Project. The Young Lives Project is a 15-year multi-country longitudinal study jointly funded by DFID and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs that follows a cohort of 12,000 children in India, Peru, Ethiopia and Vietnam. It has two main aims, namely (1) to further understanding of how poverty and inequality affect the lives of children; and (2) to shape policy and practice geared towards interrupting pathways to childhood poverty.

Based on some of the documents available, chose to focus on five selected areas central to the poverty discourse impacting children including the importance of measuring multiple variables and using unique methodologies; the value of taking a life course perspective to poverty; meaning and process of intergenerational transfer of poverty; the relevance of Social Protection programs in interrupting childhood poverty and its transfer; as well as the role of gender and intersectionality in childhood poverty. Based on the evidence available, it is clear that there is indeed merit in taking both a long term view as well as a life-phased approach. It allows policy makers to focus on specific material and non-material circumstances of defined categories of children and account for very specific situations that could give rise to exclusion of certain groups.