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Data and Dogma: The Great Indian Poverty Debate

Author

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  • Angus Deaton
  • Valerie Kozel

Abstract

What happened to poverty in India in the 1990s has been fiercely debated, both politically and statistically. The debate has run parallel to the wider debate about globalization and poverty in the 1990s and is also an important part of that debate. The economic reforms of the early 1990s in India were followed by rates of economic growth that were high by historical standards. The effects on poverty remain controversial, however. The official numbers published by the government of India, showing an acceleration in the rate of poverty reduction from 36 percent of the population in 1993/94 to 26 percent in 1999/2000, have been challenged for showing both too little and too much poverty reduction. The various claims have often been frankly political, but there are also many important statistical issues. The debate, reviewed in this article, provides an excellent example of how politics and statistics interact in an important, largely domestic debate. Although there is no consensus on what happened to poverty in India in the 1990s, there is good evidence both that poverty fell and that the official estimates of poverty reduction are too optimistic, particularly for rural India. The issues covered in this article, although concerned with the measurement of poverty in India, have wide international relevance--discrepancies between surveys and national accounts, the effects of questionnaire design, reporting periods, survey nonresponse, repair of imperfect data, choice of poverty lines, and interplay between statistics and politics. Copyright 2005, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Angus Deaton & Valerie Kozel, 2005. "Data and Dogma: The Great Indian Poverty Debate," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 20(2), pages 177-199.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:wbrobs:v:20:y:2005:i:2:p:177-199
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Tarozzi, Alessandro, 2007. "Calculating Comparable Statistics From Incomparable Surveys, With an Application to Poverty in India," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 25, pages 314-336, July.
    2. repec:pri:rpdevs:deaton_adjusted_poverty_india is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Yoko Kijima & Lanjouw, Peter, 2003. "Poverty in India during the1990s - a regional perspective," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3141, The World Bank.
    4. (No last name available), Himanshu, 2013. "Poverty and Food Security in India," ADB Economics Working Paper Series 369, Asian Development Bank.
    5. Mistiaen, Johan A. & Ravallion, Martin, 2003. "Survey compliance and the distribution of income," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2956, The World Bank.
    6. Gaurav Datt, 1999. "Has Poverty Declined since Economic Reforms? Statistical Data Analysis," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-31, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    7. Gaurav Datt & Valerie Kozel & Martin Ravallion, 2003. "A Model-Based Assessment of India's Progress in Reducing Poverty in the 1990s," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-32, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    8. Angus Deaton, 2003. "Adjusted Indian Poverty Estimates for 1999-2000," Working Papers 200, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
    9. Deepak Lal, 2002. "Economic Reforms & Poverty Alleviation: India A Tale of two Surveys," UCLA Economics Working Papers 822, UCLA Department of Economics.
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