Can Graduation Programmes End Child Poverty?

Cambodian GirlCan social protection lift up and sustain households out of poverty? The keyword of this sentence is ‘sustainability’. Social protection commonly and theoretically aims to cut a vicious cycle of poverty, which also refers to long-term poverty or intergenerational transmission of poverty. Nevertheless, social protection in practice tends to focus on short- and medium-term impacts. How can social protection address long term poverty?

Tackling child poverty is one of possible approaches. Taking the moment that graduation has become increasingly more popular topic in debates on poverty and social policy, Institute of Development Studies (IDS) has recently published articles on graduation. One of the articles attempts to conceptualise children and their role in sustainable graduation.

Keetie Roelen, Research Fellow at IDS, argues that graduation programmes should consider ‘twofold investment trap’ to cut intergenerational process of poverty.

As a result of graduation programme’s failure to acknowledge and engage with an intergenerational time frame of graduation, households with children participating in graduation programmes are required to perform a balancing act between meeting investment requirements for short- to medium-term intergenerational graduation.

According to her conceptual framework, with twofold investment traps, households have to make choices including:

1. The distribution of resources to children

  • The competition for monetary resources: Households face a distribution issue when they receive cash transfers, how they will spend. In this regard, there is a lot of evidence on the positive impact of cash transfers on children.
  • The competition for time: There is a potential conflict between productive activities and unpaid care works.

2. The contribution by children to the household

  • Productive activities: There are trade-offs between household well-being and child well-being. When households spend more time in productive activities, time for child care would decrease.
  • Household chores and care: Children might directly contribute to household activities to increase their productivity.

I share the same view that social protection debates need to take into account a hock between social protection and how to stop an intergenerational process of poverty. In the post 2015 agenda, the development community is aiming to eradicate extreme poverty during the coming decades, and also recognises social protection as a key player for poverty and vulnerability reduction. In order to bridge the issue and the means, the approach of twofold investment traps particularly for child poverty is an useful framework.

I believe that operationalising this approach may be the next step both for researchers and practitioners.



Keetie Roelen (2015) The ‘Twofold Investment Trap’: Children and their Role in Sustainable Graduation.

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