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How to Stop the Poverty Pandemic

Experience shows that innovative and evidence-based approaches, when executed well, can dent poverty. With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening to reverse hard-won global gains, the need for policy-relevant research, and for scaling effective solutions, has never been more urgent.

WASHINGTON, DC/CAMBRIDGE – Globally, extreme poverty is increasing for the first time in 20 years. Although some poor countries are now receiving COVID-19 vaccines, the pandemic is set to drive nearly 150 million people into extreme poverty by the end of 2021, reversing decades of progress.

But the world has a huge opportunity to help prevent this outcome, and not only through more generous aid and vaccine distribution. Lower-income countries also need assistance in adapting and scaling more robust social protection and livelihood programs. Such initiatives build resilience, enabling people to weather future economic crises. And collaborations between enterprising non-profits and researchers can help guide the way.

Careful, high-quality research to evaluate the effectiveness of specific social policies and programs in different contexts has increased markedly in the past two decades. A particularly rigorous approach known as randomized evaluation employs a methodology similar to that of medical trials to assess the real-life effects of promising innovations.

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