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Psychology and Poverty Reduction: A Global Special Issue

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A “global special issue” on poverty brought together 9 international psychology journals during 2010 through 2013. The purpose was to highlight psychology’s contribution toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals are rooted in the “capabilities approach” and highlight the importance of fostering environments that support 3 core domains: health, basic education, and income. Here, we analyze what the global special issue contributed. As a whole the global special issue provided an account of “how” psychology engages with poverty and poverty reduction. First, the global special issue, more than other research on poverty, was focused on lower- and middle-income settings. Second, while the content of the articles could be coded into 3 specific domains (health/well-being, education/development, and society/work), the vast majority of the articles straddled more than 1 category. Third, the contents of the global special issue could be organized in terms of the type of contribution: that is, practicality, theory, description, and advocacy. We highlight the importance of addressing wider situational and sociopolitical structures that constrain capability and potential, without losing sight of the person. Psychology might (a) concentrate resources on finding out what actually works to enable poverty reduction; and (b) apply what we know to ensure that research on poverty reduction is more informative and compelling to community stakeholders, organizations, and policymakers. Such an “implementation science” could advance poverty reduction and human development.

References marked with an asterisk indicates an article from the global special issue.