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An African Growth Miracle? Or: What do Asset Indices Tell Us about Trends in Economic Performance?

  • Kenneth Harttgen

    (University of Zürich, Nadel)

  • Stephan Klasen

    (Georg-August-University Göttingen)

  • Sebastian Vollmer

    (University of Hannover)

Using changes in the possession of household assets over the past 20 years, several recent papers have argued that economic performance in Arica was substantially better than suggested by national income data and income poverty statistics, who suffer from well-known weaknesses. We scrutinize these claims and first argue that trends in assets provide biased proxies for trends in incomes or consumption. In particular we show that the relationship between growth in assets and growth in incomes or consumption is extremely weak; instead, we find evidence of asset drift using macro and micro data, which is consistent with the claims we make about possible biases in the use of asset indices. As a result, we find no evidence supporting the claim of an African growth miracle that extends beyond what has been reported in GDP/capita and consumption figures.

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Paper provided by Courant Research Centre PEG in its series Courant Research Centre: Poverty, Equity and Growth - Discussion Papers with number 109.

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Date of creation: 16 Feb 2012
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Handle: RePEc:got:gotcrc:109
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  1. David E. Sahn & David Stifel, 2003. "Exploring Alternative Measures of Welfare in the Absence of Expenditure Data," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 49(4), pages 463-489, December.
  2. J. Vernon Henderson & Adam Storeygard & David N. Weil, 2012. "Measuring Economic Growth from Outer Space," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(2), pages 994-1028, April.
  3. Deon Filmer & Kinnon Scott, 2012. "Assessing Asset Indices," Demography, Springer, vol. 49(1), pages 359-392, February.
  4. Filmer, Deon & Pritchett, Lant, 1998. "Estimating wealth effects without expenditure data - or tears : with an application to educational enrollments in states of India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1994, The World Bank.
  5. Xavier Sala-i-Martin & Maxim Pinkovskiy, 2010. "African Poverty is Falling...Much Faster than You Think!," NBER Working Papers 15775, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Harttgen, Kenneth & Klasen, Stephan, 2012. "A Household-Based Human Development Index," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(5), pages 878-899.
  7. Stifel, David & Christiaensen, Luc, 2006. "Tracking poverty over time in the absence of comparable consumption data," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3810, The World Bank.
  8. David McKenzie, 2005. "Measuring inequality with asset indicators," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 229-260, 06.
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