Diagnosing poverty in Latin America

Date of publication: September 1, 1997


This paper proposes a methodology to diagnose poverty in Latin America, a useful tool in the design of social policies. The method assumes that poverty is not merely the lack of basic resources - income or of goods - but rather the outcome of a situation related to abilities, i.e. a structurally determining factor prevents people from freeing themselves from poverty. Contrary to market research, many of the approaches used to implement policies designed to overcome poverty do not attempt to find out how consumers feel about these policies, nor do they attempt to determine how poor people view their own social, political, and economic reality, which institutions they trust, and what their most pressing problems are. This paper intends to demonstrate that market research offers valid elements to address the problem of poverty and that it occupies a valid space in the range of social science tools so that, in the future, it might become a powerful “social market research” tool capable of addressing social problems.

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