High income risk is part of life in developing countries. Climatic risks, economic fluctuations, but also a large number of individual-specific shocks make these households vulnerable to serious hardship. For example, details are given on the various shocks and events causing serious hardship to rural households in Ethiopia in the last twenty years. Not surprisingly for Ethiopia, climatic events are the most common cause of shocks, but many households suffer from other common or idiosyncratic shocks related to economic policy, labour or livestock.Rural and urban households in developing countries face substantial risk. Households in risky environments have developed sophisticated (ex ante) risk-management and (ex post) risk-coping strategies, including self-insurance via savings and informal insurance mechanisms while formal credit and insurance markets appear to contribute only little to reducing income risk and its consequences. Despite these strategies, vulnerability to poverty linked to risk remains high. In this paper, I focus on the opportunities available to households to use risk-management and risk-coping strategies, and on the constraints on their effectiveness, by reviewing some of the recent literature on savings as insurance, income diversification and smoothing, and informal risk-sharing arrangements. Risk and lumpiness limit the opportunities to use assets as insurance. Entry constraints limit the usefulness of income diversification. Informal risk-sharing only provides limited protection, especially for some of the poor and their sustainability during periods of change is in doubt. Public safety nets are likely to be beneficial, but their impact is at times limited while they may have negative externalities on households not covered by the safety net. The paper also discusses the implications for policy as well as the information requirements to increase our understanding of vulnerability and implement better vulnerability reducing policies.
a b s t r a c tMuch has been written on the determinants of technology adoption in agriculture, with issues such as input availability, knowledge and education, risk preferences, profitability, and credit constraints receiving much attention. This paper focuses on a factor that has been less well documented: the differential ability of households to take on risky production technologies for fear of the welfare consequences if shocks result in poor harvests. Building on an explicit model, this is explored in panel data from Ethiopia. Historical rainfall distributions are used to identify consumption risk. Controlling for unobserved household and time-varying village characteristics, it emerges that not just ex ante credit constraints, but also the possibly low consumption outcomes when harvests fail, discourage the application of fertilizer. The lack of insurance or alternative means of keeping consumption smooth leaves some trapped in low return, lower risk agriculture, one of the mechanisms through which poverty perpetuates itself in agrarian settings.
Most studies examining the dynamics of welfare have found large fluctuations in consumption over relatively short periods, suggesting substantial short-run movements in and out of poverty. The consequence is that cross-section poverty research may not be able to identify the poor. In this study, we explore this short-run variability further. We use a data set on a panel of 1450 households in different communities in rural Ethiopia, surveyed thrice, over 18 months. On average year-to-year poverty is very similar. However, we find high variability in consumption and poverty, over the seasons and year-by-year. Econometric analysis suggests that consumption is affected by idiosyncratic and common shocks, including rainfall and household-specific crop failure, while households respond to seasonal incentives related to changing labour demand and prices. The results imply that a larger number of households are vulnerable to shocks than implied by the standard poverty statistics, while some of the non-poor in these statistics are in fact otherwise poor households temporally boosting their consumption as an optimal response to changing seasonal incentives.
Using panel data from rural Ethiopia, the article discusses the determinants of consumption growth (1989 -1997), based on a microgrowth model, controlling for heterogeneity. Consumption grew substantially, but with diverse experiences across villages and individuals. Rainfall shocks have a substantial impact on consumption growth, which persists for many years. There also is a persistent growth impact from the large-scale famine in the 1980s, as well as substantial externalities from road infrastructure. The persistent effects of rainfall shocks and the famine crisis imply that welfare losses due to the lack of insurance and protection measures are well beyond the welfare cost of short-term consumption fluctuations. D
To investigate risk-sharing within the household, we model nutritional status as a durable good and we look at the consequences of individual health shocks. For household allocation to be pareto-efficient, households should pool shocks to income. We also investigate whether households can smooth nutritional levels over time. Using data from rural Ethiopia on adult nutritional status, we find that poor households are affected by idiosyncratic agricultural shocks, while richer households are more successful in smoothing nutritional levels. All individuals adjust to predictable changes in earnings and the nutritional status of poor individuals is responsive to seasonal food price fluctuations. Poor southern households are not sharing risk; women in these households bear the brunt of adverse shocks. Finally, we look at the role of inside and outside options in determining the intrahousehold allocation of nutrition of married couples. We find that wives' relative position improves with a smaller age gap between partners, in younger marriages, as well as by favourable customary laws on settlements upon divorce-but the most important variable affecting allocation is household wealth. Foster employs a model of intertemporal resource allocation under liquidity constraints and examines the ability 2 of households to smooth consumption (or more indirectly, the anthropometric well-being of the children) over time. He finds that changes in health outcomes were influenced by liquidity constraints linked to credit market imperfections. Pitt, Rosenzweig and Hassan (1990) examine the impact of higher endowments on nutrient intakes. They find 3 that higher endowments increase nutrient intakes only for men and not women. That is, households seem to allocate more resources to members with better health endowments, who are more likely to work at energy-intensive activities which pay relatively high wages.
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