The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
We analyze the performance of kernel density methods applied to grouped data to estimate poverty (as applied in Sala-i-Martin, 2006, QJE). Using Monte Carlo simulations and household surveys, we find that the technique gives rise to biases in poverty estimates, the sign and magnitude of which vary with the bandwidth, the kernel, the number of datapoints, and across poverty lines. Depending on the chosen bandwidth, the $1/day poverty rate in 2000 varies by a factor of 1.8, while the $2/day headcount in 2000 varies by 287 million people. Our findings challenge the validity and robustness of poverty estimates derived through kernel density estimation on grouped data.