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Poverty in Nigeria

In: Economic Policy Options for a Prosperous Nigeria


  • Simon Appleton
  • Andrew McKay
  • Babatunde Adewumi Alayande


Nigeria has a reputation in popular discussion as being fantastically unequal. Sala-i-Martin (2006: 364) reviews the world distribution of income and finds Nigeria ‘perhaps the most interesting case’. His estimates, based on national accounts together with survey estimates of income distribution, imply that mean income per capita has fallen since 1970 while inequality has ‘exploded’. He surmises that the proportion of people living below one dollar a day has increased (to 70 per cent), but that the income of the more affluent has also increased. He posits that the distribution of income in Nigeria has become bimodal, with a few non-poor separating from the mass of the poor (see Figure 2 of Subramanian and Sala-i-Martin, 2003). An in-depth Oxfam study of poverty in Nigeria cites the UNDP Nigeria 2000/2001 Human Development Report as explaining that Nigeria has a Gini coefficient ‘close to one’ (Oxfam, 2003: 7). Such perceptions of extreme inequality are supported by the contrast between the large oil revenues Nigeria earns and the fragile livelihoods most of its citizens eke out in smallholder agriculture and non-farm self-employment. Oil money has allowed the creation of a large public sector, whose workers are seen as relatively privileged. Moreover, oil is widely seen as having fostered corruption and capital flight, contributing to the creation of an affluent, internationally mobile elite.

Suggested Citation

  • Simon Appleton & Andrew McKay & Babatunde Adewumi Alayande, 2008. "Poverty in Nigeria," Palgrave Macmillan Books, in: Paul Collier & Chukwuma C. Soludo & Catherine Pattillo (ed.), Economic Policy Options for a Prosperous Nigeria, chapter 14, pages 331-371, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:palchp:978-0-230-58319-1_15
    DOI: 10.1057/9780230583191_15

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