15 May 2010

Poverty Professionals

Via Chris Blattman, here is Ravi Kanbur on Poverty Professionals and Poverty

those of us, including me, who analyze poverty and discourse about poverty, seem to do rather well out of it.

Ravi’s concluding proposal is that

each poverty professional should engage in an “exposure” to poverty (also known as “immersions”) every 12 to 18 months.

That sounds a bit weak to me. Especially when he also briefly hits upon what could potentially be a more significant problem.

How many poverty professionals could really and truly get an equally well paying job in the private sector, say, even allowing for the specific human capital they have built up in the organization in which they work? This is an empirical question, of course, but I advance the hypothesis that pay among poverty professionals is better explained by distribution of economic rent than by a market process (or any process) that selects talent for poverty reduction and rewards it by results. There are, of course, individuals who have demonstrated that they could thrive in alternative settings, and have come to the calling of poverty reduction after achievements elsewhere. But as I noted earlier, increasingly, in agencies, in academia, in think tanks, in foundations and in NGOs, poverty professionals are on a cradle to grave career path within an organization

Perhaps reforming the cradle to grave career path would do more good than just assuaging some middle-class guilt?

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