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E-conference comments

From: Brian C. Aldrich, USA
Category: Category 1
Date: 27 Mar 2000
Time: 17:49:19
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Date: Mon, 27 Mar 2000 10:31:03 -0500 From: "Brian C. Aldrich" <WNAldrich@VAX2.WINONA.MSUS.EDU> Subject:E-conference comments To:

I am pleased to see that some questions have been raised about the focus on poverty. I think that there is a confusion between poverty producing conditions in a society and people who are at or near the bottom of the society in terms of material goods, etc. A focus solely on the latter, is, I think, a mistake.

When, during the course of development, external groups focus exclusively on the formally defined poverty groups, this creates a tremendous resistance on the part of other groups in the society who are often not much better off. Pressure on put on political leaders to minimize the emphasis on the poor, resulting in lack of program support, corruption, diversion of funds, etc. At least this is the experience in the area of housing.

The point is, of course, that if the power differentials aren't changed, then internal groups will make certain that the poorest in the society do not get access to the resources.

I think that thinking in terms of processes which lift entire groups in terms of physical and mental well-being is a much better way to look at it.

An example from Rotary International's project to eradicate polio in the world. You can't do it by just vacinating the poor!

The other dimension in focusing on just poverty in cities, is that here in the U.S., in the ongoing battle over who is poor, there is increasing data, of good quality, that indicates that the empirical condition of being in poverty is transitory for most of the lowest 20% of income. The Institue for Research on Poverty at the U of Wisconsin has shown clearly that poverty is not a static condition form the vast majority of people who are defined at any given point in time as being "in poverty."

Cities can be great engines for improvement in the human condition.

What processes are the most important for enhancing the average physical and emotional wellbeing of all the inhabitants?

Brian Aldrich Winona State University

Last changed: March 13, 2002