Fractal Poverty Traps

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Christopher B. Barrett; Brent M. Swallow

Type of Document:
Scholarly Article


World Development

Date of Publication:
January 2006

Place of Publication:
Not Available


Abstract: This paper offers an informal theory of a special sort of poverty trap, one in which multiple dynamic equilibria exist simultaneously at multiple (micro, meso and/or macro) scales of analysis and are self-reinforcing through feedback effects. Small adjustments at any one of these levels are unlikely to move the system away from its dominant, stable dynamic equilibrium. Governments, markets and communities are simultaneously weak in places characterized by fractal poverty traps. No unit operates at a high-level equilibrium in such a system. All seem simultaneously trapped in low-level equilibria. The fractal poverty traps formulation suggests four interrelated strategic emphases for poverty reduction strategies.

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