intergenerational poverty, intervention, individual-environment interaction, specific-holistic dichotomy, post-industrial society


Through tracking the educational and career trajectories of the young adult members (aged 24–26) of 154 families over 13–15 years, this study suggests that the problem of intergenerational poverty is serious in Hong Kong. Quantitative data indicates that adolescents with poor parents have a 104 percent higher chance of being poor in young adulthood, and nearly 60 percent (58.4%) of the samples follow “the-poor-begets-the-poor; therich- begets-the-rich” pattern across generations. However, the explanatory power of the logistic regression models consisting of confounding factors are weak (R2=0.15). Subsequent focus group discussions with 30 mothers from the samples point to myriad forms of individual-environment interactions which determine their children’s life chances. These findings pose challenges to policymakers and researchers who attempt to formulate specific programs to eliminate the “root causes” of intergenerational poverty. This paper pinpoints the epistemological incompatibility between the nature of the poverty cycle and evaluable programmatic interventions, particularly in post-industrial societies, and calls for a holistic approach to intervention.

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