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Passing on poverty: the intergenerational transmission of wellbeing and ill-being in rural Bangladesh

Peter Davis


The paper presents findings on the intergenerational transmission of poverty from life histories conducted in rural Bangladesh as part of a study of poverty dynamics and the impact of development interventions. The life histories provide evidence for a relatively high prevalence of intergenerational transmission of poverty (and of wellbeing). The means by which poverty is passed on from parents to children is explored, painting a picture of poor families being more exposed to, and more damaged by, a relatively small number of categories of shocks and downward pressures, such as those caused by illness, crop damage and floods, and with lasting effects often carried to the next generation. In addition, the reduced ability of many poor people to benefit from a similarly small set of opportunity types is also frequently passed on to the next generation. This is because the capacity to seize opportunities is linked to tangible assets such as land and livestock, and intangible assets, such as those that facilitate entry to salaried work. Poor endowments of these assets tend to continue to the next generation. Some who benefit from success in business or salaried work do manage to escape the poverty of their parents, but these people are the fortunate few. They are also more likely to live in areas closer to the metropolitan centres. Even while significant progress in reducing poverty has been made in rural Bangladesh in recent years, it seems likely that tomorrow’s poor will continue to be the children of today’s poor, unless more is done to ameliorate these socio-economic processes that allow poverty to be passed from one generation to the next.

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

Publication Type(s)

CPRC Working Paper


poverty dynamics intergenerational transmission of poverty assets Bangladesh life history shocks life histories in rural Bangladesh series

ISBN: 978-1-906433-64-2


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