COVID-19 vs. UPG: Evidence From the 2007 Cohort in Bangladesh

While most people across the world have been affected by the disruption in social and economic activities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the poorest and the most vulnerable households in low-income countries have experienced the hardest hit. In normal conditions, BRAC’s flagship graduation approach aiming to alleviate poverty was proven to be highly successful at giving the poorest women in some of the poorest areas of Bangladesh the tools to escape the poverty trap. This paper investigates the impact of the pandemic on the 2007 cohort of beneficiaries of BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation (UPG) program in rural areas of Bangladesh. The authors used the findings of Balboni et al. (2020) to compare two groups—above the poverty threshold and below the poverty threshold—that benefited to a different extent. Secondly, the study compared the resilience of the younger participants to the older group. Occupation and migration are the focus of this paper. It was found that the participants, who successfully escaped the poverty threshold, identified by Balboni et al. (2020), are more likely to have good jobs, including salaried, agricultural, and non-agricultural work, and productive assets at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also more likely to keep good jobs during these unprecedented times. This is because of the graduation model’s agenda to help the poorest community shift from casual labour to self-employment through livestock rearing and land cultivation, which are the least affected income sources. Exploring the migration status of the former UPG program participant households, it was found that those who successfully escaped the poverty trap are less likely to experience the agony of COVID-induced migration, which is taking place worldwide as a desperate response to an increase in job loss.

Authors: Rahman, Atiya; Bandiera, Oriana
Type: Report
Year: 2021