Gender, poverty and development: inter-generational and household dynamics

chant2_238x159chant3_238x159This research aimed to provide a major theoretical and empirical contribution to enquiry into gender and poverty in developing regions, and particularly to debate around the concept of a ‘global feminisation of poverty’.

Based on a detailed comparative analysis of Costa Rica, The Gambia and the Philippines, the research critically evaluated dominant trends in women’s poverty in relation to macro-level development trajectories, to generational changes in women’s and men’s capabilities, activities and entitlements, and to transitions in household composition and headship.

There are major difficulties in interrogating evidence for a ‘feminisation of poverty’ on the basis of secondary sources alone. For example, there is limited availability and reliability of statistical data on poverty (especially that which is sex-disaggregated).

Poverty is also multi-dimensional and means different things to different people, added to which are strong ethical and intellectual imperatives to bring the ‘voices of the poor’ themselves into the picture.

For these reasons, the analysis of secondary sources was complemented by in-depth fieldwork in The Gambia, Costa Rica and the Philippines.

In order to establish whether, and how far, poverty among women was increasing over time, the bulk of the fieldwork involved interviews and focus group discussions in conjunction with local field assistants with over 220 low-income women and men from different age cohorts.

This was complemented by consultations with 40 professionals in a range of government and international institutions and NGOs.

Staff member: Sylvia Chant

Project period: 2003 – 2006 (36 months)

Funding: Leverhulme Trust, Major Research Fellowship

Related publications:


  • Chant, S. (2007) Gender, Generation and Poverty: exploring the ‘feminisation of poverty’ in Africa, Asia and Latin America (Cheltenham: Elgar).

Journal articles:

  • Chant, S. (2006) Re-thinking the ‘feminisation of poverty’ in relation to aggregate gender indices, Journal of Human Development, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp. 201-20.
  • Chant, S. (2008) The ‘feminisation of poverty’ and the ‘feminisation’ of anti-poverty programmes: room for revision? Journal of Development Studies, Vol. 44, No. 2, pp. 165-97.
  • Chant, S. (2009) The ‘feminisation of poverty’ in Costa Rica: to what extent a conundrum? Bulletin of Latin American Research, Vol. 28, No. 1, pp. 19-44. (among ‘top ten’ downloaded papers from BLAR in 2009)
  • Chant, S., Hernández, E.J., Castellon Zelaya, L., & Rojas Saborio, R. (2008) ¿Qué Tan Problemática es la ‘Femenización de la Pobreza’ en Costa Rica? Reflexiones con referencia a un estudio cualitativo Guanacaste, Anuario de Estudios Centroamericanos, Nos. 33 & 34., pp. 205-60
  • Brickell, K. & Chant, S. (2010) ‘The unbearable heaviness of being’: reflections on female altruism in Cambodia, Philippines, The Gambia and Costa Rica, Progress in Development Studies, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 145-59.
  • Chant, S. & Evans, A. (2010) Looking for the one(s): young love and urban poverty in The Gambia, Environment and Urbanisation, Vol. 22, No. 2 (in press).

Book chapters:

  • Chant, S. (2006) ¿Cómo podemos hacer que la ‘femenización de la pobreza’ resulte más relevante en materia de políticas? ¿Hacia una ‘femenización de la responsabilidad y la obligación’? (How can we make the ‘feminisation of poverty’ more policy-relevant? Towards a ‘feminisation of responsibility and obligation’?).  In UNFPA/GTZ Cohesión Social, Políticas Conciliatorias y Presupuesto Público: Una Mirada desde el Género (UNFPA: Mexico City), pp.201-33.
  • Chant, S. (2010) Gendered poverty across space and time: introduction and overview, in S. Chant (ed.) International Handbook on Gender and Poverty: concepts, research, policy (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar), pp.1-26.
  • Chant, S. (2010) Towards a (re)-conceptualisation of the ‘feminisation of poverty’: reflections on gender-differentiated poverty from The Gambia, Philippines and Costa Rica, in S. Chant (ed.) International Handbook on Gender and Poverty: concepts, research, policy (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar), pp.111-16.
  • Chant, S. (2011) ‘Women and poverty’, in T. Paviani and C. Ceci (eds) The Future of the Earth (Turin:Codice/UTET) (in press)

Working papers:

Online newsletters:

  • Chant, S. (2006) Female headship and the ‘feminisation of poverty’, In Focus (Online newsletter of UnitedNations Development Programme (UNDP) International Poverty Centre) (May), No. 3,pp. 3-5.
  • Chant, S. (2008) Beyond incomes: a new take on the  ‘feminisation of poverty’, Poverty in Focus (Online newsletter of United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) International Poverty Centre) (January), No.13.

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