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Absolute Poverty: When Necessity Displaces Desire

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  • Robert Allen

Abstract

This paper proposes a new method for defining an international poverty line based on explicit budgeting. The novel feature is that linear programming is used to deduce the diet that minimizes cost and guarantees survival. Nonfood items are also explicitly budgeted and amount to about one quarter of the cost of subsistence. A series of least cost diets are calculated with increasingly demanding nutritional requirements for twenty countries using prices from ICP 2011. The aim is to see which requirements rationalize the spending pattern of the poor. The ‘reduced basic’ model does the job. When the cost of the nonfood items are added to the cost of the ‘reduced basic’ diet, the resulting Linear Programming Poverty Line (LPPL) averages $1.88 per day across the poor countries in the sample. The same model rationalizes both the spending pattern of the poor and the World Bank Poverty Line. The LPPL has the advantages that it is (1) clearly related to survival and well being, (2) comparable across time and space since the same nutritional requirements are used everywhere, (3) adjusts consumption patterns to local prices, (4) presents no index number problems since solutions are always in local prices, and (5) requires only readily available information, namely, the prices in ICP or equivalent.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Allen, 2016. "Absolute Poverty: When Necessity Displaces Desire," Oxford Economic and Social History Working Papers _141, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxf:esohwp:_141
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Absolute poverty; Diet problem; Linear Programming; World Bank Poverty Line;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty

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