Like many other urban and middle-class Indians, I was raised to believe that people must be poor for some faults of their own. But these grandmothers’ tales disappeared like smoke when confronted with the reality that I experienced. Our team probed the factors associated with falling into poverty or remaining poor among a total of 35,000 households. Drunkenness, drug abuse, and laziness together accounted for no more than 3% of all instances (see Krishna 2010).
People are not poor because they wish to be poor or because of some character defect. Most have become poor due to influences beyond their personal control. These are the factors toward which preventive poverty policies must be geared. I will write of these factors in my next posting.
That's Prof. Anirudh Krishnaa, a professor of public policy and political science at Duke, discussing his research at the Ideas for India blog.
I came across his paper -- Escaping Poverty and Becoming Poor: Who Gains, Who Loses, and Why? -- way back in 2006 [I blogged about it at HtOHL; BTW, that site is no more, but lives on at the Internet Archive]. Krishna has gone on to write a book on this research: One Illness Away: Why People Become Poor and How They Escape Poverty.