Before the world can answer questions about how poverty is reduced, it needs to know how progress can be measured. But estimates of the number of the world’s poor and questions about whether it has been decreasing or increasing have given rise to one of the hottest controversies in the development community. Angus Deaton, Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, who has looked in detail at India’s poverty numbers, has been at the center of this debate. He speaks here with Prakash Loungani of the IMF’s External Relations Department about the dimensions of the problem and what can be done to provide more transparent and more reliable data on the world’s poor.
Poverty alleviation is typically addressed in financial programming through additive programs that target vulnerable groups but without modifying the underlying stabilization and adjustment targets. Instead, this paper integrates the poverty alleviation objective into the financial programming framework using a well-known poverty index. In consequence, the assessment of trade-offs between competing objectives is facilitated. A simulation demonstrates how the integrated approach can reduce adverse effects on poverty and improve the balance of payments, although at the cost, temporarily, of a higher fiscal deficit and inflation.
The paper suggests an operationally usable framework for the evaluation of growth
inclusiveness—the inclusive growth framework (IGF). Based on the data on growth, poverty,
and inequality, the framework allows for the quantitative assessment of growth inclusiveness.
The assessment relies on the decomposition of the change in poverty into growth, distribution,
and decile effects, which can be calculated using the Distributive Analysis Stata Package
(DASP). Availability of at least two household surveys is the main precondition for the use of
the IGF. The application of the IGF is illustrated with two country cases of Senegal and
Developing and transition economies are prone to financial crises, including balance of payments and banking crises. These crises affect poverty and the distribution of income through a variety of channels: slowdowns in economic activity, relative price changes, and fiscal retrenchment, among others. This paper deals with the impact of financial crises on the incidence of poverty and income distribution, and discusses policy options that can be considered by governments in the aftermath of crises. Empirical evidence, based on both macro- and microlevel data, shows that financial crises are associated with an increase in poverty and, in some cases, income inequality. The provison of targeted safety nets and the protection of specific social programs from fiscal retrenchment remain the main short-term propoor policy responses to financial crises.
Growth is pro-poor if the poverty measure of interest falls. This implies three potential sources of pro-poor growth: (a) a high rate of growth of average incomes; (b) a high sensitivity of poverty to growth in average incomes; and (c) a poverty-reducing pattern of growth in relative incomes. I empirically decompose changes in poverty in a large sample of developing countries into these components. In the medium run, most of the variation in changes in poverty is due to growth, suggesting that policies and institutions that promote broad-based growth should be central to pro-poor growth. Most of the remainder is due to poverty-reducing patterns of growth in relative incomes, rather than differences in the sensitivity of poverty to growth in average incomes. Cross-country evidence provides little guidance on policies and institutions that promote these other sources of pro-poor growth.
This paper describes the nature and evolution of poverty in Nigeria between 1985 and 1992. It highlights the potential wealth of the Nigerian economy and examines how the economic policies pursued in the 1980s and 1990s impacted economic growth and welfare. The headcount measure of poverty in Nigeria declined from 43 percent to 34 percent between 1985 and 1992. Decomposing the factors causing the reduction in poverty shows that the overall decline of 9 percentage point was the net result of a 14 percentage point decline owing to the growth factor and a 5 percentage point increase owing to the income distribution factor. The paper proposes that promoting broad-based growth and targeted interventions in health, education, and infrastructure need to be central strategies in the fight against poverty in Nigeria.
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.
Emerging Europe has undergone a major economic transformation over the past 25 years. Most countries experienced initial drops in output during transition, followed by recovery in the second half of the 1990s. The path of transition in the Western Balkans has however been particularly uneven. The effects of transition also seem to have been more traumatic and persistent in the Western Balkans, and nostalgia for the past appears to be more prevalent here than in other former communist regions. Such dissatisfaction has important implications for the political economy of further reforms. This paper aims to inform policy by complementing the analysis of standard macro-level measures of inequality and poverty with a household-level analysis of subjective perceptions of poverty. We find that many more people appear to feel poor than are classified as such using purely income-based measures. Uncertainty, in particular related to expectations of future income and vulnerability to shocks, appears to be a key driver behind this discrepancy.
This paper investigates the link between macroeconomic performance and the change in the poverty rate among 47 episodes of growth and 52 episodes of economic downturn in developing and transition economies. We show that, on average, (i) the greater the inequality, the lower the elasticity of poverty to growth, and the higher the mean income, the higher the elasticity; (ii) the country-specific elasticity is identical for episodes of economic growth and for episodes of economic downturn; and (iii) higher growth does not bring diminishing returns to poverty reduction. Moreover, we show that very high inflation is associated with a higher elasticity of the poverty rate to economic downturn, but at lower inflation, there is no relationship between inflation and the elasticity of the poverty rate to growth or recession. Trade openness and changes in the terms of trade explain part of the elasticity of the poverty rate to economic downturn.
The paper explores the quality of the recent high-growth episode in sub-Saharan Africa by examining the following two questions: (i) what has been the nature and pattern of SSA growth over the past 15 years and how does it compare with previous episodes? (ii) has this growth had an impact on socially desirable outcomes, for example, improvements in health, education and poverty indicators? To do this, the paper first examines various aspects of the fundamentals of growth in SSA—levels, volatility, sources, etc.—according to various country analytical groupings. Second, it explores the extent to which the growth has been accompanied by improvements in social indicators. The paper finds that the quality of growth in SSA over the past 15 years has unambiguously improved, although progress in social indicators has been uneven.