Data and Dogma: The Great Indian Poverty Debate
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.
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Volume (Year): 20 (2005)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
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