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Child poverty, evidence and policyMainstreaming children in international development$

Nicola A. Jones

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781847424464

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781847424464.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Child poverty, evidence and policy

Nicola Jones

Andy Sumner

Policy Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes the objectives of this book on child poverty, evidence, and policy. It is about how children's visibility, voice, and vision in ideas, networks, and institutions can be mainstreamed in development research and policy. The chapter also aims to address a ‘policy audience’, those working within or seeking to influence policy, by drawing on and/or generating evidence that aims to promote children's visibility, voice, and vision. It further describes the organization of this book, whereby broad conceptual ideas on the nature of child poverty and well-being, related knowledge-generation processes, policy processes, and knowledge on policy processes are introduced. The chapter mentions that the book sets out insights into the interactions of knowledge and policy processes on child poverty and well-being in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Keywords:   child poverty, evidence, policy, well-being, knowledge-generation processes, policy processes, Africa, Asia, Latin America

1.1 What is this book about?

This book is about child poverty, evidence and policy. It is about how children’s visibility, voice and vision in ideas, networks and institutions can be mainstreamed in development research and policy (see Figure I.1).

Children (younger than 18 years old) account for, on average, over a third of the population in developing countries and almost half in the least-developed countries. Not only are a large proportion of these children poor, but the impacts of poverty suffered during childhood are often enduring and irreversible. We use the lens of ‘3D well-being’ to convey a holistic understanding of child poverty and well-being, meaning that research and policy are approached from multiple angles and with multiple understandings of power and policy change.

There is, of course, a wealth of literature on child poverty. An important development has been a child-centred approach based on children as active agents in terms of voice (in decision-making in communities and societies), vision (of deprivation and well-being) and visibility (in terms of the local meaning ascribed to or social construction of childhood). Our book asks: how can we understand child poverty and well-being? What types of knowledge are being generated about the nature, extent and trends in child poverty and well-being in developing-country contexts? How can this evidence catalyse change to support children’s visibility, voice and vision? Finally, how do these questions play out in different contexts?

1.2 Who is this book for?

This book is primarily for a ‘policy audience’, meaning those working within or seeking to influence policy by drawing on and/or generating evidence that seeks to promote children’s visibility, voice and vision. This includes those working within and outside governments as children’s champions, whether it be for international or local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) or as civil servants located in social and economic ministries and children’s and women’s agencies around the world.

The book may also be of interest to those working in international development and poverty reduction more generally, those studying (p.2) MA programmes in International Development seeking to specialise in or write dissertations about children and development, as well as those studying dedicated MA child-specific programmes and PhDs. However, this book is not an introduction to the area. Those looking for a systematic introduction to the field of children and development would do well to first refer to Ansell’s (2005) Children, Youth and Development and for contemporary global debates to Doek et al’s (2009) Child Poverty: African and International Perspectives, amongst others.

The objective of our book is not to provide an introductory overview or detailed insight into children’s perspectives on poverty and well-being, children’s participation and agency, or the social construction of ‘childhood’ per se. These areas have been well covered (see Chapter 1). Instead, this book focuses on the interplay between knowledge and policy change as it relates to these areas. Accordingly, we scope across literatures and synthesise in order to provide an analytical narrative on the nature of childhood poverty and well-being, on knowledge-generation processes related to child poverty and well-being, and on how this knowledge or evidence interfaces with policy processes to promote (or not) children’s visibility, voice and vision in policy ideas, networks and institutions.

We refer throughout to relevant literature the reader may pursue for greater depth on childhood poverty and well-being on the one hand, and policy processes on the other. Indeed, there is an important and voluminous literature on child poverty and its life-course and intergenerational transmissions (IGT) (e.g. Harper and Marcus, 2000; Moore, 2001; Ridge, 2002; White, 2002; Yaqub, 2002; Harper et al, 2003; Marshall, 2003; Corak, 2005, 2006; Subrahamanian, 2005a, 2005b; Bradshaw et al, 2006; Smith and Moore, 2006; Bird, 2007; Land et al, 2007). We should further note that interest in ‘child well-being’, as we outline, is not new but emergent in the area (e.g. see recent work by Pollard and Lee, 2003; Moore and Lippman, 2005; Camfield et al, 2008) and seeks to bring together diverse writings on children’s own perspectives on poverty and well-being (e.g. Woodhead, 2001; Ridge, 2002; Huebner, 2004; Ben-Arieh, 2005; Biggeri et al, 2006; Fattore et al, 2007; Crivello et al, 2008; Johnston, 2008; Redmond, 2008; Woodhead and Faulkner, 2008; Camfield et al, 2009a, 2009b), as well as writings on child participation and agency (e.g. Boyden and Ennew, 1997; White and Choudhury, 2007; Redmond, 2009) and the social construction of childhood (e.g. James and Prout, 1990; Corsaro, 1997; Mayall, 2002; Camfield and Tafere, 2008; Ames and Rojas, 2009; Tafere et al, 2009).

We then marry this focus on childhood poverty and well-being with literature that examines the complexities of the interplay between (p.3) research–evidence–knowledge in policy processes. Here we draw on insights about: the non-linearity of policy processes and the necessity of understanding the peculiarities of specific political and sectoral contexts (e.g. Joubert, 2001; Innvaer et al, 2002; Liberatore and Funtowicz, 2003; Manzini, 2003; Court et al, 2005; Herring, 2007; Jones et al, 2008); about the role of researchers’ and CSOs’ ‘intent’ to shape policy (e.g. Weingart, 1999; Choi et al, 2005; Maxwell and Stone, 2005; O’Neil, 2005; Carden, 2009); and about the role of those who cross borders between academic, advocacy and policy arenas (e.g. Rosenstock, 2002; Cash et al, 2003; Choi et al, 2005; Lackey, 2006; Bielak et al, 2008). Our analysis is also informed by work on the contested nature of knowledge and what counts as quality evidence (e.g. Clark and Juma, 2002; Lomas et al, 2005; Fairhead et al, 2006) and on innovations in policy advocacy (e.g. Cash et al, 2003; Rowe and Frewer, 2005; Culyer and Lomas, 2006; Leach and Scoones, 2006; Bielak et al, 2008).

1.3 How the book is organised

This book is composed of two parts. Part One introduces, in three chapters, broad conceptual ideas on the nature of child poverty and well-being, related knowledge-generation processes, policy processes and knowledge in policy processes. The second part of the book sets out, again in three chapters, insights into the interactions of knowledge and policy processes on child poverty and well-being in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This is complemented by an empirical case study from each region to illustrate key dynamics of the interface between knowledge and policy change.1

Chapter 1 is concerned with what child poverty and well-being is. We ask: how can we best understand childhood poverty and well-being? What is ‘three-dimensional (3D) child well-being’ and how does it add value? In Chapter 2 we explore questions about the knowledge base that underpins our understanding of child poverty and well-being and discuss what research methodologies can best generate ‘evidence’ that supports such understandings. In Chapter 3 we focus on the role of evidence in policy processes and policy advocacy, or what we refer to as ‘knowledge–policy interaction’.

Part Two presents regional case studies from Africa, Asia and Latin America. Chapters 46 have a consistent structure, beginning with an overview of child poverty and well-being in each region, followed by a discussion of the knowledge–policy interface. Chapter 7 concludes.



Figure i.1: Approach taken in this book

We hope that this discussion enriches debate on mainstreaming children in development research and policy globally, and welcome feedback and discussion.


(1) These case studies draw on empirical research conducted by the authors as an adjunct to phase 1 of the Department for International Development (DFID)-funded child research project, Young Lives, now based at the University of Oxford. During 2003–06, Jones was policy coordinator at Save the Children UK (at the time a core partner of the Young Lives project). For 2006–07, Sumner was a Higher Education Funding Council for England-funded Visiting Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (the lead academic institution in phase I of the Young Lives project).