Best article prize
CMI researcher Magnus Hatlebakk has received the Dudley Seers Memorial Prize for the best article in Journal of Development Studies in 2014. The article Poverty Dynamics in Rural Orissa: Transitions in Assets and Occupations over Generations investigates whether historic land distribution determines stagnation or development of Indian villages. The analysis was motivated by an existing theoretical model where villages, with many poor unskilled laborers and few entrepreneurs with the necessary resources needed for investments, may in the long-run end up in a low-development trap. Retrospective interviews were conducted with a large random sample of households to investigate whether the model has empirical support. It was found that the land-distribution two generations earlier can explain present day variation in development between villages, but only in remote areas that are less integrated with urban labor markets. In Orissa, where the study was conducted, these remote villages are tribal areas with militant Maoist activities.
The findings indicate that programs targeting the poor should be focused on remote schedule-tribe villages where there is widespread poverty rather than semi-urban areas where the poor are in a minority. Even though the number of beneficiaries may be the same, and the potential for development may seem more promising in more developed places, the analysis indicates that a large push in the most remote locations has the potential of lifting villages out of poverty traps, while poor households in more developed areas can expect to benefit from modernization independently of public programs.