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When method matters : toward a resolution of the debate about Bangladesh's poverty measures


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  • Ravallion, Martin
  • Sen, Binayak


Measurement problemshave confounded recent attempts to assess Bangladesh's progress in reducing poverty. The issues at stake, though poorly understood, are common in poverty measurement. The authors review the issues, recommend an operational approach to resolving them with available data, and present new estimates of various poverty measures on a consistent basis for 1983-92. They then examine proximate causes of the changes in Bangladesh's poverty measures and possible implications for future assessments of the country's progress in reducing poverty under alternative growth paths. The authors argue that poverty measurement requires both normative value and judgement and assumptions about behavior to interpret available - invariably imperfect - data. Of interest for policymakers is how much bearing the analyst's choices have on key conclusions. They use the case study of Bangladesh to illustrate that those choices sometimes - but not always - affect qualitative conclusions about the sectoral structure of poverty. There appear to be considerable discrepancies among recent estimates of poverty measures for Bangladesh - even when the same survey data and a similar specification of food-energy requirements are used. The author's contend that all recent estimates are questionable from one viewpoint or another, although some problems are more worrisome than others. They propose a new series that, they hope, preserves the best features of previous work and eliminates the others. They believe that their estimates are more consistent over time and space than some others in the literature - consistent in the sense that two people with the same command over basic consumption needs will be treated the same way by the poverty measures.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 1359.

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Date of creation: 30 Sep 1994
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1359

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Keywords: Poverty Lines; Achieving Shared Growth; Environmental Economics&Policies; Safety Nets and Transfers; Poverty Assessment;


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  1. Paul, Satya, 1989. "A model of constructing the poverty line," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 129-144, January.
  2. Foster, James & Greer, Joel & Thorbecke, Erik, 1984. "A Class of Decomposable Poverty Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 52(3), pages 761-66, May.
  3. Ravallion, Martin, 1991. "The challenging arithmetic of poverty in Bangladesh," Policy Research Working Paper Series 586, The World Bank.
  4. Greer, Joel & Thorbecke, Erik, 1986. "A methodology for measuring food poverty applied to Kenya," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 59-74, November.
  5. Ravallion, Martin & van de Walle, Dominique, 1991. "Urban-rural cost-of-living differentials in a developing economy," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 113-127, January.
  6. Sen, Amartya K, 1976. "Poverty: An Ordinal Approach to Measurement," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 44(2), pages 219-31, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Quentin Wodon, 2000. "Microdeterminants of consumption, poverty, growth, and inequality in Bangladesh," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(10), pages 1337-1352.
  2. Shahidur R. Khandker, 2005. "Microfinance and Poverty: Evidence Using Panel Data from Bangladesh," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, World Bank Group, vol. 19(2), pages 263-286.
  3. Mohinder S. Mudahar & Raisuddin Ahmed, 2010. "Government and Rural Transformation : Role of Public Spending and Policies in Bangladesh," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 16356, August.
  4. Wodon, Quentin T., 1999. "Growth, poverty, and inequality : a regional panel for Bangladesh," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2072, The World Bank.
  5. Mustafa K. Mujeri, 2000. "Poverty Trends and Growth Performance: Some Issues in Bangladesh," The Pakistan Development Review, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, vol. 39(4), pages 1171-1191.
  6. Kazi Arif Uz Zaman & Takahiro Akita, 2011. "Spatial Dimensions of Income Inequality and Poverty in Bangladesh: An Analysis of the 2005 Household Income and Expenditure Survey Data," Working Papers, Research Institute, International University of Japan EMS_2011_20, Research Institute, International University of Japan.


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