Exact Configuration of Poverty,Inequality and Polarization Trends in the Distribution of well-being in Cameroon
This study attempts to carry out a comprehensive analysis of poverty, inequality and polarization trends using Cameroon household surveys collected before and during the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) process. The theoretical decomposition frameworks propelling the study are motivated mainly by the Shapley value. Empirical estimates are obtained from the software DAD 4.4 using both money-metric and child nutrition indicators, and poverty lines, with the monetary threshold derived nonparametrically. Effects within-zones account for much of monetary poverty changes than effects between-zones. The findings that inter-zone effects contribute to alleviating rural poverty while aggravating urban poverty, suggests the potential for rural–urban migration to alleviate rural poverty. Changes in money-metric poverty and health deprivation sharply contrast each other. While health poverty deteriorated, income poverty retreated. This is an indication that economic growth may not necessarily engender significant reduction in all dimensions of well-being. Changes in health poverty are driven largely by effects of redistribution, whereas for income poverty the growth component seems to be more important. Both income and non-income dimensions highlight the dominant role of within-group components in accounting for inequality trends. However, while the between-group contributions to inequality are negligible in the health dimension, they are non-negligible in the income space. In terms of levels, polarization and inequality are more of an urban than a rural problem, yet inequality and polarization worsened only in rural areas in the period 1996–2001. As a whole, polarization indices do not give dissimilar trends from standard measures of inequality. The conflicting results from income and health well-being indicators are attributable to the observation that the economic rebound in Cameroon was preceded by fiscal austerity measures embedded in the Structural Adjustment Programmes that engendered a decline in the availability of public goods. Moreover, health indicators are slow-moving compared with income or expenditure, which does not include the quality of service received from social expenditures on health and nutrition. These results have implications for policy making: in terms of income deprivation, emphasis could be on growth-based labour-intensive policies that create opportunities for the rural poor to increase their incomes; and in terms of child health and perhaps general health, emphasis could be on redistribution of health infrastructure and personnel to increase outreach.
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