With the post-2015 era approaching, debates surrounding poverty have seriously started to consider what makes for quality growth in order to eliminate extreme poverty, rather than just reduce it. Zero poverty cannot be realised without tackling chronic poverty. However, due to lack of data and evidence, poverty-reduction policies hardly consider the particular situations and characteristics of the chronically poor. In order to fill such research gaps, this paper examines the trends and characteristics of chronic poverty in rural Cambodia between 2004 and 2010. Applying a blend of nationally representative qualitative (participatory poverty assessment) and quantitative sources (household survey), I primarily estimate chronic poverty headcount rates, based on criteria defined by the poor. Surprisingly, despite the excellent progress in economic development, the chronic poverty headcount ratio barely improved from 11 percent. The result implies that rapid economic growth has successfully raised the consumption of chronically poor households, but had done little to help them accumulate productive assets and human capital to break a vicious cycle of poverty. Structural constraints are identified in their demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, including: limited asset ownership, low human development, female heads of household, high child dependency, fewer economically active members, small household size, and many young members. From a policy perspective, one striking finding is that consumption measurements based on the current national poverty line cannot be used to identify a majority of the chronic poor. This is not merely a matter of different measurement applications, because the chronically poor identified in this study are just as deprived as the consumption-based poor in some other attributes like human development. The evidence suggests that poverty reduction programs should take into consideration the multidimensional criteria identified here to avoid leaving the chronically poor behind in the country’s development. This policy implication is particularly important for targeting mechanisms of social protection instruments implemented under the National Social Protection Strategy, which are key measures in ending poverty in Cambodia.
Keywords: chronic poverty, combining methods, multidimensional poverty, social protection, targeting, Cambodia