NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Idea of Antipoverty Policy

Martin Ravallion

NBER Working Paper No. 19210
Issued in July 2013
NBER Program(s):   DEV

How did we come to think that eliminating poverty is a legitimate goal for public policy? What types of policies have emerged in the hope of attaining that goal? The last 200 years have witnessed a dramatic change in thinking about poverty. Mainstream economic thinking in the 18th century held that poverty was necessary and even desirable for a country’s economic success. Today, poverty is more often viewed as a constraint on that success. In short, poverty switched from being seen as a social good to a social bad. This change in thinking, and the accompanying progress in knowledge, has greatly influenced public action, with heightened emphasis on the role of antipoverty policy in sustainable promotion from poverty, as well as protection. Development strategies today typically strive for a virtuous cycle of growth with equity and a range of policy interventions have emerged that aim to help assure that outcome. An expanding body of knowledge has taught us about how effective those interventions are in specific settings, although many knowledge gaps remain.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19210

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