Index > Briefing
Thursday, December 03, 2020
POD Principles Improve Living Environment and Prevent Regression to Poverty

On the 2nd of December, China's State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development stated that 2020 was the year where poverty alleviation has reached its final stage, and all 832 national poverty-stricken counties across China have been lifted out of poverty. However, this does not mean the end of China's poverty alleviation work. The next step is to shift its focus from poverty alleviation to consolidating and expanding the results of poverty alleviation. How then, can China ensure that a "return to poverty" does not occur? In this regard, relevant practices of developed countries can serve as examples.

There have been incidents in developed countries where after the entire society was lifted out of poverty, certain groups have returned to poverty. These groups become vulnerable parts of the country, increasingly widening the gap between the rich and the poor in the city and have a negative impact on the long-term development of the city and the country. Microsoft founder Bill Gates attaches great importance to the issue of inequality between the rich and poor and has been funding research on poverty issues in a long-term manner. For example, the foundation sponsored by Bill Gates utilizes Big Data to study the problem of inequality between the rich and the poor. This Big Data research plan was mainly led by Harvard economist Prof. Raj Chetty.

The team led by Prof. Chetty used various "de-identification" census data provided by the government to carefully track many communities in the United States and found that the increase in personal income does not require one to be born in a rich family. Instead, one only needs to live in a suitable community. First of all, Prof. Chetty's analysis of relevant data in Seattle shows that if children from poor families who originally lived in a run-down community are moved to a relatively better community, their lifetime income will increase by US$ 200,000 simply due to leaving the negative influence of the original community. Secondly, Big Data shows that the public security status of the community determines the income performance of residents. Prof. Chetty studied two communities in the impoverished areas of Los Angeles in the United States. In Watts, one of such community, those who are from local low-income families have a 45% probability of ending up in prison. At the same time, it was also noted that most of the children in these areas would drop out of high school. By comparison, Compton, another community just a few miles away showed vastly different results, where the residents there have a mere 6.5% probability of ending up in prison. Although these two communities are both in impoverished areas, due to the relatively good public security in Compton's community, minors are less likely to be affected by gangs and are able to complete high school. Hence, the two communities show obvious differences in the future income performance of the residents. The result of the data shows that the various welfare and national housing programs currently provided by the U.S. government to poor families have not been effective. The reason is that if these poor families who receive aids are still trapped in the negative influences of the original community; minors who grow up in said communities will still maintain a low-income level for the rest of their lives.

From the results of these Big Data studies, Bill Gates sees education as a particular key factor. He pointed out that minors must be able to complete high school in order to have opportunities for social advancement. This cannot be done by the children alone; rather it should be the effort of the entire community. Good public security, adequate schools and teachers as well as basic job opportunities in the community are all crucial factors. This is to ensure that adults will have sufficient time to focus on their children's education.

This research is crucial to the promotion of urban renewal. ANBOUND's founder Chan Kung believes that urban renewal can transform communities of unpleasant condition into more pleasant and livable ones, thereby giving these communities new vitality. Through absorbing educational resources, capital and technical talents, the overall quality of the communities can be improved. Based on the research of the Bill Gates Foundation, these are the key factors in poverty alleviation and they provide the support required for the development of the middle class. They may even become the main policy tools and key measures to ensure that there is no return to poverty after poverty alleviation.

For urban renewal to contribute to the goal of making sure that there is no return to poverty after poverty alleviation, it should firstly be made clear that urban renewal is not just simply about real estate development like demolishing a house and building another. To develop truly meaningful urban renewal, it is necessary to use the pedestrian-oriented development (POD) principle. In POD principle, a safe and livable pedestrian community is created through the connection of pedestrian streets and good public amenities such as parks, schools, plazas, etc. being deployed in the community. Once these communities possess good public amenities, they will attract enough people which would provide a certain foundation for consumption and industry, thus forming a "vitality center". Such "vitality center" created step by step from the pedestrian street is a product of systematic development thinking. Urban renewal targeting the "vitality center" will not only mitigate some defects and problems in urban spaces, but also provide urban residents with a space for exchange activities, enhance their happiness and sense of belonging as well as creating a harmonious community space. Naturally, families living there will also enjoy a stable life foundation and children will be well protected and educated, making it harder to return to poverty afterwards. Therefore, the POD principle can not only promote urban renewal, but also ensure that urban renewal advances in an orderly, effective and beneficial direction, making it a crucial means for constructing a high-quality urban lifestyle.

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