Research in the World lecture report - poverty & politics

Poverty research and policy was the topic of the most recent lecture in the series ‘Research in the World’, chaired by the Vice-Chancellor.

Staff and students heard Baroness Professor Ruth Lister reflect on how our understanding of poverty has changed over the past 50 years, since the ‘rediscovery of poverty’ in the 1960s, and what this has meant for policy.

In the lecture titled ‘From both sides now’: reflections on poverty research and politics, Baroness Lister focused on three key areas of research:

  • the allocation and use of resources within households,
  • the experience of poverty as revealed by qualitative longitudinal methods,
  • the sustainable livelihoods approach.

This research shows that people in poverty are often severely constrained by their circumstances and challenges the stereotyping of people in poverty as passive victims or as living outside mainstream society and values. However, as Baroness Lister discussed, there is a danger of research being ‘cherry-picked’ in political debates.

This led to a lively question and answer discussion about how research could be more effectively used in public understanding, as well as in political decisions and in the making and evaluation of policy.

In her vote of thanks, Dr Tess Ridge said that Baroness Lister had been an inspirational figure for academics and students alike, and thanked her for reminding us that both policy and poverty are political issues.

She said, “It is vital to ensure that poverty research plays a key role in informing policy and wider debates about the impact of poverty in people’s lives. This was not just about new research but also returning to previous research to provide evidence to policy makers and pressure groups to challenge some of the enduring myths about poverty that can resurface during times of economic and political change.”

The lecture is available as a podcast.

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Previous lectures in the Research in the World series:

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