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The Intergenerational Transmission of Poverty during the AIDS Epidemic in Uganda

Janet Seeley


In this paper I examine through longitudinal survey and case study data the role of HIV and AIDS in the intergenerational transmission of poverty in rural Uganda. I focus on the factors that contribute to chronic poverty in rural Uganda; the patterns of intergenerational transfers and asset inheritance in the study households; the impact on children orphaned by AIDS and on older people of the intergenerational transmission of poverty, and the gender aspects in the transmission of intergenerational poverty in the context of the AIDS epidemic. Data from 15 case study households, drawn from the findings of a longitudinal study of rural households in South-West Uganda, is used to examine these factors.

The case study households were or are all headed by women, a number of whom have experienced relationship instability and have as a consequence often struggled to take care of children and grandchildren with little support from partners. Their experience of managing land and property transfers, the provision for children’s education and skill-training and health care are described. I examine the impact on the transmission of poverty to children of HIV and AIDS as well as the same impact on older people. I go on to explore some of the strategies employed by household members to break the cycle of poverty such as migration for waged work and marriage. I then explore some policy implications of the findings: the provision of anti-retroviral therapy, food security as well as access to good education and work and the importance of kin in the provision of support.

The findings of this study show how a large network of kin and associates who can help out provides an effective safety net for many poor families in times of need. However, members of poor families who prosper often find themselves with additional mouths to feed that can drain their resources. The conditions in which poverty exist are reproduced through similar mechanisms to those experienced by previous generations; poverty is not therefore ‘transmitted’ so much as recreated because external and internal factors continue to constrain the opportunities to build assets. I conclude that despite the strain that the AIDS epidemic has put on many families the kin network remains a vital safety net in the absence of other social support, yet it is also a levelling force: keeping poor adults and their children poor, as resources are stretched, shared and traded.

Publication Type(s)

CPRC Working Paper


intergenerational transmission of poverty rural Uganda data HIV AIDS

ISBN: 978-1-906433-11-6


The Intergenerational Transmission of Poverty PDF 224.7 KB

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