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World Bank Publishes UW Research on Poverty in Rural Areas

February 9, 2015

People living in remote, less-productive agricultural lands in developing countries need particular attention in any efforts to reduce poverty, two University of Wyoming researchers have concluded.

Edward Barbier, the John S. Bugas Professor of Economics and Finance in the UW College of Business, and graduate student Jake Hochard published an article, “Identifying Geographical Poverty Traps in Rural Areas,” in the January 2015 World Bank Research E-Newsletter.

The researchers analyzed the distribution of populations in favorable vs. less favorable agricultural lands in 83 developing countries to determine how those locations affected income growth between 2000 and 2012. They found that, as more rural people are located on remote and marginal agricultural lands, the poverty-reducing impact of income growth tends to be lower.

“In particular, our results suggest that the most critical and vulnerable rural population groups are those located on less favored agricultural lands that also are remote from markets,” they wrote. “It is this group that should be the main target of any strategy aimed at encouraging outmigration while investing in improving the livelihoods of those who remain in such areas.”

The new findings support previous research by Barbier and others showing that such geographical “poverty traps” in rural areas of developing countries pose a particular challenge.

“In such a case, reducing rural poverty requires either a large-scale regional approach or assisting the exit of populations,” Barbier and Hochard wrote. “It may be that both strategies will be required to alleviate the problem of the concentration of rural populations on less favored agricultural lands and remote areas which, as this paper has shown, appears to be a major obstacle to the poverty-reducing effect of overall income growth in developing countries.”

Widely published in natural resource and development economics, as well as the interface between economics and ecology, Barbier has served as a consultant and policy analyst for a variety of national, international and non-governmental agencies, including many United Nations organizations and the World Bank. He has written more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, written or edited 21 books, and published in popular journals.

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