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Social cash transfers, generational relations and youth poverty trajectories in rural Lesotho and Malawi

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Project Description

Youth poverty is important, not least because of its implications for the future, yet rural youth poverty in particular has received little attention from researchers or policy makers. The major recent innovation in policy responses to poverty in sub-Saharan Africa has been social cash transfer (SCT) schemes which disburse cash to poor people. There is growing evidence that these address symptoms of poverty among their target populations, particularly children and the elderly. However, impact evaluations have paid minimal attention to their effects on young adults or generational relations.

Researchers increasingly recognise that poverty is produced through structural power relations including political and economic relations, and relations within and between social groups (based on social categorisations such as gender, age, generation and class). If the impacts of SCTs are to be fully understood, it is necessary to examine how they intervene in and are negotiated through these structural relationships.

Rather than examining the impacts of SCTs on youth as an age-based category, the research focuses on their effects on the power relationships that structure young lives. Drawing on recent calls for a 'generationing' of development, it examines how SCTs shape generational relationships (between older and younger people; between members of an age cohort; between life phases; and between young people and their wider structural contexts). As generational relations intersect with other social relations, effects of SCTs on relations of age and gender will also be examined.

The proposal addresses the call question: What factors shape pathways into and out of poverty and people's experience of these, and how can policy create sustained routes out of extreme poverty in ways that can be replicated and scaled up? It focuses on two countries that have instituted contrasting SCTs in the past decade: Lesotho (social pensions and child grants) and Malawi (SCTs to ultra-poor labour constrained households).

1. To identify how specific structural power relationships shape young people's poverty trajectories, focusing particularly on generational relations
2. To identify how SCTs operating in Malawi and Lesotho intervene in these structural power relationships, and the consequences for young people's poverty trajectories
3. To examine how political and economic power relationships between national and international institutions are implicated in the design and implementation of SCT schemes
4. To develop an analysis of young people's poverty trajectories and policy responses that conceptually connects national and international political economic processes with social relations of generation, age and gender
5. To develop and refine a methodological approach that facilitates the involvement of young people in the identification and analysis of the structural relations at the root of their experiences of poverty

The research will augment a rich dataset from a previous project (2007/8) which detailed the life histories and aspirations of 80 young people, then aged 10-24, in two villages. Follow-up interviews will be conducted with these young people, some of whose households will have since begun to receive SCTs, to map their poverty trajectories and explore influencing factors. In depth interviews will also be conducted with members of five households per village in receipt of SCTs to explore further the impacts on relations of gender, age and generation. Subsequently, participatory workshops with groups of young people will examine in greater depth the processes that produce and perpetuate poverty, and how SCTs intervene in these processes. Meanwhile, a PhD student will undertake research with policy makers, focusing on Objective 3. Finally, workshops with representatives of agencies, NGOs and government will engage in further analysis of the findings to address Objective 4 and identify key policy lessons.

Type of Project Project
Status Project Complete
Funder(s) Economic & Social Research Council
Value £33,193.00
Project Dates Oct 1, 2015 - Sep 30, 2019

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