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Escaping poverty: patterns and causes of poverty exits in rural Bangladesh

Peter Davis


This paper uses findings from 293 life-history interviews, conducted by the author and a small team of researchers in rural Bangladesh in 2007, to examine what can be learned about patterns of exit from poverty. The author argues that narrative-based studies of how individuals move out of, or into poverty can complement variable-based analyses of aggregate poverty trends. The analysis of poverty exits in this paper shows that individuals on trajectories of long-term improvement in wellbeing tend to more effectively exploit a limited set of work-oriented or asset-related opportunity types, and many of these can be identified from life-history interviews. The most important of these included, in order of frequency across the set of life histories: rural farm and non-farm-related businesses (some supported by loans); land asset accumulation, livestock production; remittances and support from sons’ and (to a lesser extent) daughters’ incomes; and crop production. Life histories also show that individuals enjoying long-term wellbeing improvement differed in key ways from people showing trajectories of long-term wellbeing decline. The paper explores these differences and discusses implications for both productive and protective poverty reduction policies.

This paper is part of a series of CPRC working papers on rural Bangladesh.

Publication Type(s)

CPRC Working Paper


poverty dynamics assets Bangladesh life history life histories in rural Bangladesh series

ISBN: 978-1-906433-65-9


1 Escaping poverty: patterns and causes of poverty exits in rural Bangladesh PDF 1204.4 KB

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