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Testing Poverty Lines


  • Martin Ravallion
  • Michael Lokshin


In theory, a poverty line can be defined as the cost of a common (inter-personally comparable) utility level across a population. But how can one know if this holds in practice? For groups sharing common consumption needs but facing different prices, the theory of revealed preference can be used to derive testable implications of utility consistency knowing only the "poverty bundles" and their prices. Heterogeneity in needs calls for extra information. We argue that subjective welfare data offer a credible means of testing utility consistency across different needs groups. A case study of Russia's official poverty lines shows how revealed preference tests can be used in conjunction with qualitative information on needs heterogeneity. The results lead us to question the utility consistency of Russia's official poverty lines. Copyright © 2006 The Authors; Journal compilation © International Association for Research in Income and Wealth 2006.

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Ravallion & Michael Lokshin, 2006. "Testing Poverty Lines," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 52(3), pages 399-421, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:revinw:v:52:y:2006:i:3:p:399-421

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Singh, S K & Maddala, G S, 1976. "A Function for Size Distribution of Incomes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 44(5), pages 963-970, September.
    2. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1983. "On an Extension of the Gini Inequality Index," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 24(3), pages 617-628, October.
    3. Lerman, Robert I. & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1989. "Improving the accuracy of estimates of Gini coefficients," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 43-47, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ravallion, Martin & Lokshin, Michael, 2010. "Who cares about relative deprivation?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 171-185, February.
    2. Channing Arndt & Kenneth R. Simler, 2007. "Consistent poverty comparisons and inference," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 37(2-3), pages 133-139, September.
    3. Shireen Kanji, 2011. "Labor Force Participation, Regional Location, and Economic Well-Being of Single Mothers in Russia," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 32(1), pages 62-72, March.
    4. Channing Arndt & Kristi Mahrt & Finn Tarp, 2016. "Absolute poverty lines," WIDER Working Paper Series 008, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    5. Daniel Gottlieb & Alexander Fruman, 2011. "A quality-index of poverty measures," Working Papers 239, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    6. Cojocaru, Alexandru & Diagne, Mame Fatou, 2013. "How reliable and consistent are subjective measures of welfare in Europe and Central Asia ? evidence from the second life in transition survey," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6359, The World Bank.
    7. World Bank, 2010. "The Invisible Poor : A Portrait of Rural Poverty in Argentina," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2436.
    8. Julia Johannsen & Manfred Zeller & Stephan Klasen, 2007. "The capability dilemma in operational poverty assessment," Ibero America Institute for Econ. Research (IAI) Discussion Papers 159, Ibero-America Institute for Economic Research.
    9. Bjorn Van Campenhout & Haruna Sekabira & Fiona Nattembo, 2015. "Uganda - A new set of utility consistent poverty line," WIDER Working Paper Series 129, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    10. van den Boom,Bart & Halsema,Alex & Molini,Vasco, 2015. "Are we confusing poverty with preferences ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7247, The World Bank.

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