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Consumption and poverty among refugee children in East Africa

To this day, no study has analyzed consumption inequality whitin refugee families and its consequences for poverty measurement. An article published in World Development co-authored by GSEM Professor Giacomo De Giorgi, GSEM Academic Fellow Theresa P. Beltramo, Rossella Calvi, and Ibrahima Sarr fills this gap. Children in refugees’ households are at much higher risk of poverty than children in surrounding host communities, and this calls for targeted policy actions. The researchers show that there are a few critical predictors of child poverty with a supervised machine learning algorithm. These are easily observable traits, such as a child’s age, household composition, and access to sanitation and clean water. Based on these predictors, one can develop low-cost and parsimonious approaches to target child poverty (at least to the areas of study). The proposed targeting approaches can outperform standard targeting based on per-capita household expenditure.

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There are now more violent conflicts globally than at any time in the past three decades, resulting in the largest forced displacement crisis ever recorded. Understanding at a granular level the well-being of refugees is essential to inform successful poverty alleviation strategies and unlock refugees’ potential. As forced displacement can lead to a reorganization of a family’s structure, we use a structural model in combination with data from refugee camps and surrounding communities in Uganda and Kenya to estimate the allocation of consumption within families. We compute poverty rates that account for intra-household inequality, finding that refugee children can be up to three times more likely to be poor than adults. So, refugee children not only suffer from the experience of forced migration, but also from potentially low nutrition and a disproportionately higher poverty risk. Using a supervised machine learning algorithm, we show that a small set of observable traits, such as a child’s age, household composition, and access to sanitation and clean water, predict child poverty in refugee settlements and surrounding communities remarkably well, often better than per-capita household expenditure.

Access the study: Child poverty among refugees

> Click here to view the GSEM faculty’s publications in top-tier journals.



January 19, 2024
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