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Revisiting the Great Indian Poverty Debate: Measurement, Patterns, and Determinants

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  • Himanshu
  • Kunal Sen

Abstract

Abstract In spite of rapid economic growth in the past three decades, poverty rates in India remain high, especially in certain regions and among the socially excluded groups. However, what has happened to poverty in India, especially after the onset of economic reforms in 1991, has been fiercely debated, both politically and statistically. In this paper, we revisit the Great Indian Poverty Debate, addressing both the measurement and causes of India’s persistent poverty. Our analysis of recent Indian poverty data suggests that there has been a higher rate of poverty decline in the second decade of economic reforms, in the 2000s, as compared to the first decade of reforms, in the 1990s. However, the rate of poverty decline in the post-reform period has not matched what was observed in the pre-reform period, in the 1980s. Further, there is evidence of sharply increasing inequality, both within the rural and urban sectors, as well as in a growing rural-urban divide. We suggest that the disappointingly low rate of decline in poverty in India in spite of high economic growth in the post-reform period may be attributed to declining growth in agricultural output, linked to low productivity growth in the sector, along with the increasing scarcity of arable land for cultivation.

Suggested Citation

  • Himanshu & Kunal Sen, 2014. "Revisiting the Great Indian Poverty Debate: Measurement, Patterns, and Determinants," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series 20314, GDI, The University of Manchester.
  • Handle: RePEc:bwp:bwppap:20314
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    File URL: http://hummedia.manchester.ac.uk/institutes/gdi/publications/workingpapers/bwpi/bwpi-wp-20314.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Arvind Panagariya & Megha Mukim, 2014. "A Comprehensive Analysis of Poverty in India," Asian Development Review, MIT Press, vol. 31(1), pages 1-52, March.
    2. Gaurav Datt & Martin Ravallion, 2002. "Is India's Economic Growth Leaving the Poor Behind?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 89-108, Summer.
    3. Ira N. Gang & Kunal Sen & Myeong-Su Yun, 2017. "Is Caste Destiny? Occupational Diversification among Dalits in Rural India," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 29(2), pages 476-492, April.
    4. Ira N. Gang & Kunal Sen & Myeong‐Su Yun, 2008. "Poverty In Rural India: Caste And Tribe," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 54(1), pages 50-70, March.
    5. Datt, Gaurav & Ravallion, Martin, 1998. "Why Have Some Indian States Done Better Than Others at Reducing Rural Poverty?," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(257), pages 17-38, February.
    6. Ashok Kotwal & Bharat Ramaswami & Wilima Wadhwa, 2011. "Economic Liberalization and Indian Economic Growth: What's the Evidence?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(4), pages 1152-1199, December.
    7. Neff, Daniel & Sen, Kunal & Kling, Veronika, 2012. "The Puzzling Decline in Rural Women's Labor Force Participation in India: A Reexamination," GIGA Working Papers 196, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    8. Joshi, P.K. & Birthal, Pratap Singh & Minot, Nicholas, 2006. "Sources of agricultural growth in India: role of diversification towards high-value crops," MTID discussion papers 98, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    9. Ravallion, Martin & Datt, Gaurav, 2002. "Why has economic growth been more pro-poor in some states of India than others?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 381-400, August.
    10. 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.
    11. Richard Palmer-Jones & Kunal Sen, 2003. "What has luck got to do with it? A regional analysis of poverty and agricultural growth in rural India," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(1), pages 1-31.
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    1. Imai, Katsushi S. & Gaiha, Raghav & Thapa, Ganesh, 2015. "Does non-farm sector employment reduce rural poverty and vulnerability? Evidence from Vietnam and India," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 47-61.
    2. Katsushi S. Imai & Bilal Malaeb, 2016. "Asia's Rural-urban Disparity in the Context of Growing Inequality," Discussion Paper Series DP2016-29, Research Institute for Economics & Business Administration, Kobe University.
    3. Imai, S.K. & Malaeb, B., 2018. "IFAD RESEARCH SERIES 27 - Asia’s rural-urban disparity in the context of growing inequality," IFAD Research Series 280076, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
    4. Azam, Mehtabul, 2017. "Are Urban-Rural Welfare Differences Growing in India?," IZA Discussion Papers 11174, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Rajesh K. Chauhan & Sanjay K. Mohanty & S V Subramanian & Jajati K Parida & Balakrushna Padhi, 2016. "Regional Estimates of Poverty and Inequality in India, 1993–2012," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 127(3), pages 1249-1296, July.

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