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Using Family Histories to Understand the Intergenerational Transmission of Chronic Poverty

Robert Miller


The Chronic Poverty Research Centre over the period 2007-2011 is undertaking a research programme on the theme of the Intergenerational Transmission (IGT) of Poverty that will centre upon the use of quantitative panel studies triangulated with qualitative life history interviews. This paper proposes a method of collecting family histories that would act as a means of linking households from the panel studies with individual life histories.

The family histories would augment information on the IGT of poverty in a number of ways:

  • by placing quantitative findings into a context of expressed meaning;
  • by providing a holistic view of the family, useful for investigating issues such as whether there is a ‘family strategy’ for mobility;
  • by extending the space dimension provided by household panel data to households and individuals within the same family but located separately;
  • by extending the time dimension provided by panel data, through the retrospective recall of events and the prospective anticipation of the future;
  • by allowing for the direct examination of generational change in the family and the persistence of poverty across generations of the same family.

The paper describes the procedure used to construct a three-generation ‘social genealogical’ chart of the family and a strategy for interviewing individual family members sited across the generations of the family. A mode of ‘contrastive comparison’ analysis between the factual family history and the accounts of the family given by differently-sited family members is explained that would allow a holistic extra-individual view of the family to be constructed.

Publication Type(s)

CPRC Working Paper


intergenerational transmission of poverty lifecycle childhood poverty panel data Q2 life history

ISBN: 978-1-906433-02-4


Using Family Histories PDF 142.5 KB

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