3.8 million working-age adults with a disability lived in poverty.

This op-ed originally appeared in Spotlight on Poverty.

— Diana Skelton (@DianaSkelton) October 17, 2018

Poverty is a complex problem. Even as we debate the different ways to measure and reduce poverty, we know that far too many Americans are living in poverty in the United States. 39.7 million, officially.

For the past several years, I have worked with my colleagues at The Hamilton Project to produce an annual update characterizing those who are living below the official poverty line—with a particular focus on working-age adults. Today, we learn in broad strokes who lived below the poverty line in 2017.

Although no research shows a tipping point higher than 10%, not everyone accepts that number, especially in situations wherein another 10% of the population holds an equally unshakeable – but different – view or behaviour.

Rita’s six peers have peer networks of their own and, as they begin to exhibit self-efficacy through their observation of Rita, self-efficacy will spread and eventually become a fabric of the community.

The somewhat fuzzy term “social relationships” doesn’t have a universally accepted definition, but for researchers in the social sciences, it encompasses friends as well as family members. It also includes belonging to a church or volunteer organization.

Second, as people have experimented with ways to reach those who are still poor, they have come up with interventions that minimize the ways adverse incentives unintentionally affect people’s efforts to help themselves. It is now possible to think of social insurance programs that could complement—rather than simply supplement—the principal components of poverty reduction strategies, especially in countries that have reduced poverty to moderate levels. We know a lot more about how to design and implement these programs and we have new technologies to target interventions better.

One of my assignments at the World Bank was to come up with a blueprint for ending extreme poverty by 2030. We found that it would need a lot more than automatic tellers, home visits, and mobile money.

Today she’s growing her company with an ambition to get into new markets. Cindy says JA is “a way to empower yourself not only in business, but also as a person.”

On New Year’s Day, I read an article by Annie Duflo and Jeffrey Mosenkis in The Washington Post, intriguingly titled “Why it was actually a good year.” 

Author

Indermit Gill

Professor of Practice of Public Policy in the Sanford School of Public Policy - Duke University

We’ve observed the transformation of Eastern Europe and the growth of selected poor communities and cities around the world that have surpassed the tipping point. Many young people are unreachable owing to geopolitical or capacity limitations, but reaching 10% to 15% of them can lead to a ripple effect that can bring powerful social change. From this perspective, the goal of poverty eradication, or at least poverty reduction, seems more achievable.

As it turns out, having friends is not only good for your soul but it’s good for your body, too.

Rita’s six peers have peer networks of their own and, as they begin to exhibit self-efficacy through their observation of Rita, self-efficacy will spread and eventually become a fabric of the community.

Therefore, based on research and the successes of other NGOs, we suggest the societal tipping point is 10% to 15%. For the sake of clarifying how this would work in practice, let’s consider an example of a 15%tipping point, as follows:

Even as the economy regains and (for now) maintains its strength, those struggling to find sufficient work cannot work their way out of poverty. Involuntary part-time work – including being unable to find a full-time job, slack work, seasonal work, or having a job that started or ended during the week – spiked during the Great Recession to two million workers, but dropped to 980,000 in 2017. While the number of people living in poverty working less then full-time is statistically significantly lower than in 2016, in 2017, one-in-three of those working less than full-time, was working part-time involuntarily.

According to The Poverty Puzzle, self-efficacy is “highly predictive of performance” and a “better predictor of success than skills or past accomplishment”, influencing everything from school drop-out rates and resilience in children, to work performance in adults. While research is recent and evolving, self-efficacy has a clear connection to economic growth and helping young people with the desire to learn new skills.

Leonardo Martellotto, President, JA Americas

Martin Ravallion, former head of research at the World Bank, estimated that for every 1% of growth in a country’s economy, poverty is cut by 0.6% to 4.3%, depending on income equality in that country. Focusing on growing economies, then, is a means of reducing poverty. That is why thousands of NGOs throughout the world aim to reduce poverty’s effects by educating young people for the jobs of the future; retraining adults whose skills aren’t suited to today’s job market; and providing skills to young people that will generate economic growth.

If you have just three minutes, you can get the gist of it from this exchange between World Bank President Jim Kim and CNN’s Richard Quest.

Each year, the U.S. Census Bureau calculates how many people overall in the United States were living in poverty in a given year by both the official and supplemental poverty measure. Specifically, the official poverty measure utilizes a formula (pre-tax income must be less than the current value of three times a minimum food diet in 1963 adjusted by family composition), that determines whether family is below the poverty threshold.

We’ve all heard about or known kids who get involved with the wrong crowd and begin to act out or go downhill academically. Maybe you know of people who belong to a social set that exerts a bad influence: its members may be heavily involved with drugs, addicted to the party life, or overly status conscious, for example. While a supportive network of healthy friends can be uplifting, surrounding yourself with slackers or partiers may only add to life’s stressors.

Lots of the outcomes of the interactions (features, documentaries, soaps) happen over the long term but we also get to support members of the network to take part in news coverage along the way. This month, we supported two members of the group to be interviewed about feeling “boxed in” by Universal Credit for Jackie Long at Channel 4 News and The Times.

First, as more and more people are lifted out of poverty, a different problem presents itself: how do you make sure they don’t fall back in? In India, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and Pakistan, for example, more than a quarter of all people live on $1.25–$2.00 a day. If you add them up, they’re close to a billion people.

To grasp the full impact of these findings, consider the comparative role of other known risk factors on survival: social relationships have about the same influence on the odds of dying earlier as smoking and alcohol consumption, and even more than physical inactivity and obesity.

Transformacion Paraguay is one NGO that has built a 10% tipping point into its mission, saying that it intends to reach 10% of the Paraguayan population, a total of 700,000 people, with leadership lessons that will blossom into the entire country taking responsibility for positive change.

According to The Poverty Puzzle, self-efficacy is “highly predictive of performance” and a “better predictor of success than skills or past accomplishment”, influencing everything from school drop-out rates and resilience in children, to work performance in adults. While research is recent and evolving, self-efficacy has a clear connection to economic growth and helping young people with the desire to learn new skills.

These studies lend support to the stress buffering model: the emotional resources supplied by friends and other social connections ease the stress of life and lessen its effect on our physiological processes and, in particular, our immune system.

Poverty And Good Friends

“Rita” is learning self-efficacy via an after-school programme, through a mentor who uses an NGO’s programme. As Rita begins to master skills, she also begins to believe in her ability to succeed, and through trial and error, early successes, and learning new skills through each venture, she gains self-efficacy. A year after she finishes the programme, Rita is a self-effective student, athlete and artist.

By equipping young people with 21st-century work skills, providing inspiration and training for future self-employment, and mentoring them to consider the possibility of becoming future job creators, we’re attacking poverty and unemployment at its roots.

In 2000, Malcolm Gladwell defined the tipping point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point”, that point at which the unshakeable beliefs of a few will be adopted by the rest. Unlike vaccines, which require 90% to 95% of the population’s participation before widespread effects are realized, the tipping point is a much lower percentage. But how low? The most compelling tipping point study came out of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2011, which suggested 10% as the magic number. “When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10%, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. Once that number grows to about 10%, the idea spreads like flame,” the study suggests.

Transformacion Paraguay is one NGO that has built a 10% tipping point into its mission, saying that it intends to reach 10% of the Paraguayan population, a total of 700,000 people, with leadership lessons that will blossom into the entire country taking responsibility for positive change.

So they are kind of like us; they want to highlight the issues of the world…they want viewers to feel what they see and hear and they get the extra worry of getting the story right or they get a bad name and judged as a journalist. Hats off to them for doing what not everyone dares to do.”

Before Cindy started her company, Chocolovers, through the JA (Junior Achievement) Company Program, higher education wasn’t an aspiration in her El Salvador neighbourhood, which suffers from widespread poverty.

Coming mostly from JRF’s Poverty Truth Commissions across Scotland, Salford, Leeds, West Cheshire, as well as from organisations like Expert Citizens in Stoke-on-Trent, and ATD Fourth World in London, and building on their local campaigning – we bring a dozen people together once a month for media-focused peer support and media skills workshops.

Human beings form social relations because we need them. We’re tribal by nature, developing our sense of self through interconnection. Only through our personal relationships – as life partners, friends, family members, and parents – can we fully self-actualize. Hardy social relations are crucial for our emotional and physical health.

The pilot with JRF continues into 2019. Find out more.