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Poverty and Famines. Social World I. Some Web Sites. USDA: Food and Nutrition Service; www.usda.gov/fcs/ HungerWeb: www.brown.edu/Departments/World_Hunger_Program Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research: www.cgiar.org/. Who’s Amartya Sen?.

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poverty and famines

Poverty and Famines

Social World I

some web sites
Some Web Sites
  • USDA: Food and Nutrition Service; www.usda.gov/fcs/
  • HungerWeb: www.brown.edu/Departments/World_Hunger_Program
  • Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research: www.cgiar.org/
who s amartya sen
Who’s Amartya Sen?
  • Economist, Philosopher, Scholar
  • Origin; career
  • Nobel Prize, Economics
why read this book
Why Read This Book?
  • Still useful?
  • Research as process: new findings, conclusions, techniques modified
  • Recent events, and confirmation of analysis
further poverty famine as
Further: Poverty, Famine as
  • A concrete way to begin to talk about the social world
  • Illustrates
    • issues; vocabulary; body of knowledge
    • way(s) of thinking
specifically approach involves
Specifically: Approach Involves
  • Definition
  • Description
  • Measurement
  • Analysis
  • Public policy [prescription]
some data
Some Data
  • Numbers
  • Location: Hunger belt?
  • Who are the hungry?
hunger in the u s
Hunger in the U. S.
  • Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 1995
  • About 4% of households experienced reduced food intake and hunger as result of financial constraints
  • About 0.8% of households experienced severe hunger
famine vs hunger
Famine vs. Hunger
  • Distinction
    • Hunger: sustained nutritional deprivation
    • Famine: acute deprivation, sharp increase in mortality
  • Famine:
    • As a social problem
    • Some history
Famine deaths: hunger? Or disease?
  • Famine and children
  • “Missing women” issue
    • Where?
    • How many?
    • How do we know? Compare Female-to-Male Ratios across countries
famine and the food supply malthus vs sen
Famine and the Food Supply: Malthus vs. Sen
  • Population vs. food supply: how helpful is this comparison?
    • Malthus, and Essay on Population: the “race”
    • Sen, and famine, starvation as involving the relationship of people to food: the “entitlement approach”
thinking about famine
Thinking About Famine
  • Malthus: difficulties?
    • Food increasing faster than population: no famine?
    • Population increasing faster than food: famine?
sen and the entitlement approach
Sen, and the Entitlement Approach
  • Famine as a collapse of claims to food
  • Key: how do we get claims to food?
    • Production
    • Trade
    • One’s own labor
    • Inheritance or transfer
exchange entitlement
Exchange Entitlement
  • Definition: The set of all bundles of commodities we can acquire for what we own (see p. 3)
  • What affects exchange entitlement: that is, what affects our ability to exert command over food?
    • Can we find employment?
Can we sell assets?
  • What can we produce, sell?
  • What are our claims to social security?
  • What are our tax liabilities?
  • How does the price of what we have to sell compare with the price of what we buy (the price of food)?
examples from sen
Examples (from Sen)
  • Peasant vs. landless laborer: Who owns the product? What happens when typhoon destroys half the crop?
  • “boom famine”
  • Increasing price of food
  • China; and decreased starvation, though not large food production increases
conclude useful to focus on
Conclude: Useful to Focus On:
  • Distribution issues? Clarify:
    • Physical distribution? Possibly
    • Income distribution? Yes: this distributes claims to food
  • How food supply works through entitlement relationships
  • How claims to food are established
is food supply irrelevant
Is Food Supply Irrelevant?
  • More helpful to trace effects of changes in food supply through changes in entitlements
  • Why? May influence
    • understanding of why we see famine
    • policy response
  • Example: typhoon destroys half of rice crop: effects?
Point: impact of natural disaster depends on how society is organized, especially to care for its economically vulnerable groups
  • How does Sen proceed?
    • Definition
    • Description
    • Measurement, (aggregation)
    • Analysis (underlying analytical concepts)
    • Public policy
  • What’s poverty, exactly?
  • Why does it matter? Suggests ways to look for
    • Causes
    • Approaches to relief of the poor
approaches to definition
Approaches to Definition
  • Absolute deprivation: minimum subsistence definition
    • A biological approach
      • Survival
      • Ability to work effectively
    • Problems: translating nutritional requirements into food requirements; actually drawing the nutritional line
Relative deprivation: inequality definition
    • Rich vs. poor
    • Problems
      • Poverty never goes away
      • Income transferred from top to middle: inequality reduced, but not poverty
      • Decrease in overall income: no change in inequality, poverty increases
  • We want an indicator of poverty
  • Problem: how to do this, exactly?
identifying the poor
Identifying the Poor
  • Direct method (a consumption-based definition)
    • Poor if consumption bundle leaves some basic needs unfulfilled
    • Problem: What’s the minimum acceptable bundle, in terms of specific goods?
Income method
    • Calculate minimum income necessary to meet basic needs; then identify those below that line
    • Catches ability to meet minimum needs
    • Permits us to measure the shortfall from the poverty line
unit of analysis
Unit of Analysis
  • Individual?
  • Family? This is most typical
common measures
Common Measures
  • Head Count measure
    • Definition: proportion of the population defined as poor
    • U. S., and Mollie Orshansky
    • Problem: Not consider income shortfall
Income Gap Ratio
    • Definition: the percentage shortfall of average income of the poor from the poverty line
    • Problem: not catch income distribution below poverty line
    • Example: income increases for some poor, decreases for others just enough to keep IGR constant; H constant, IGR constant, poverty up
overall difficulty
Overall Difficulty?
  • There are multiple dimensions to poverty
  • Hard to catch them all in a single measure
  • Sen’s work: illustrates an important part of thinking about the social world
from the general poverty to the specific famine
From the General (Poverty) to the Specific (Famine)
  • Issues requiring distinction regarding food consumption:
    • Low level
    • Decreasing trend
    • sudden collapse
Importance of distinguishing trends, movements around trends: examples
    • Water levels, storm vs. calm
    • Gross Domestic Product
  • Regarding food: may see
    • Rising trend, production
    • Increasing size of fluctuations around trend
Seeming paradox: periodic famine accompanying decreasing starvation
  • Point: Does famine affect all groups in society equally?
how to command food
How to Command Food
  • Legal means
    • Own production
    • Trade opportunities
    • Social security mechanisms
Command over goods depends on society’s characteristics:
    • Legal
    • Political
    • Economic
    • Social
  • And on one’s place in society
  • How useful is it to compare total food to total population in analyzing famine?
  • How useful is the term “the poor” as a category of analysis?
Do market forces have a place in famine relief?
    • Role of increasing food prices
    • Where does purchasing power come from?
hunger policy
Hunger Policy
  • Grounding: protecting entitlements to food
  • Goal: secure
    • Lives
    • Livelihoods
Aid vs. development: a false choice?
    • Aid: getting food to the starving
      • Direct food aid
      • Employment subsidies; cash transfers
    • Development
      • Education; capital accumulation; growth
      • Social security system; and examples