Poverty Traps

Social-ecological mechanisms of poverty traps

This project reviews and synthesizes characteristics and mechanisms of persistent maladaptive situations (e.g. poverty traps) through a literature review and proposes a more nuanced social-ecological conceptualization. A stylized mathematical model shows how nature and culture must be explicitly considered in addition to physical capital assets if poverty is to be eradicated without negative environmental and cultural impacts.

Recent research highlighted importance of self-reinforcing dynamics between persistent poverty and low soil quality. Bringing together the neoclassical economic theory, ecological theories of nutrient cycling and population growth and dynamical systems models, we analyze how intertwined dynamics of assets, phosphorus, water and soil quality can create or break a vicious cycle of rural poverty. Our models can be used to test effects of poverty alleviation strategies under various biophysical and economic conditions.

A social-ecological system is in a fractal poverty trap if several attractors exist at the same time at multiple (micro, meso and/or macro) scales of analysis and are mutually reinforcing through feedbacks. Such systems are supposed to be in trapped states simultaneously on all levels. In addition to biophysical and economic conditions, opinion dynamics is included in our study of cross-scale dynamics between households and community.

Researchers: Sonja Radosavljevic, Udita Sanga, Maja Schlüter

Methods: Dynamical System Modeling, Agent Based Modeling, Hybrid Models, Participatory Games, Evolutionary Game Theoretic Models


Radosavljevic, S., Haider, L.J., Lade, S.J. and Schlüter, M., 2021. Implications of poverty traps across levels, World Development, Volume 144,105437, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2021.105437.

Radosavljevic, S., Haider, L.J., Lade, S.J. and Schlüter, M., 2020. Effective alleviation of rural poverty depends on the interplay between productivity, nutrients, water and soil quality. Ecological Economics, 169, p.106494. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2019.106494

Lade, S.J., Haider, L.J., Engström, G., Schlüter, M. (2017). Resilience offers escape from trapped thinking on poverty alleviation. Science Advances 3, e1603043.

Haider, L.J., Boonstra, W.J., Peterson, G.D., Schlüter, M. (2017). Traps and Sustainable Development in Rural Areas: A Review. World Development. doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2017.05.038

L. Jamila Haider (2015). Understanding Poverty Traps in Biocultural Landscapes. Stockholm University: Licentiate Thesis.   http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A817782&dswid=2666

Swedish Research Council FORMAS grant no. 2021-01840.
European Research Council under the European Unions’ Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013)/ERC grant agreement no. 283950 SES-LINK and MuSES

Previously active researchers: Jamila Haider, Steven Lade, Garry Peterson, Wijnand Boonstra

Want to know more? Email sonja.radosavljevic-@-su.se