Debates Around Globalization, Poverty, and Inequality
Poverty and inequality lie at the heart of the controversy around globalization. Specifically, global economic integration is often perceived as widening the divide between poorer and richer countries, families, and individuals. Sen (2002) suggests that the main intent of the “anti-globalization” movement, which is itself a highly global form of organizing, is not globalization per se, but the perceived growing economic disparities that seem to stem from globalizing processes. While there is immense debate over poverty measurement and the actual number of individuals and families that live below certain standards, there is no disputing that poverty and inequality continue to impact the lives of millions around the globe. Moreover, in today’s world, visual images of poverty and wealth spread more easily and faster than ever before. This influences assessments of the material and ideological circumstances of external observers, as well as by the individuals of concern themselves.
It is difficult to draw conclusions about the actual effects of globalization on poverty and inequality, because the process itself is not just based on unbiased market forces or technological advancements. Instead, globalization occurs in specific contexts and is influenced by national and transnational policies. Nissanke and Thorbecke (2005) argue that, “despite the utmost importance of understanding the globalization-poverty nexus, the precise nature of the various mechanisms, whereby the on-going process of globalization has altered the pattern of income distribution, and the conditions facing the world’s poor are yet to be carefully analyzed. This is because the globalization-poverty relationship is complex and heterogeneous, involving multifaceted channels. It is highly probable that globalization-poverty relationships may be nonlinear in many aspects, involving several threshold effects” (p. 3). Ravallion (2003) also calls attention to the fact that the “starting point” for many countries differs with respect to their initial level of economic development, making it difficult to generalize across countries and regions.
KeywordsIncome Inequality Poverty Line Poverty Reduction Global Poverty Global Economic Integration
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