The Poverty of Statistics
This paper is a prepublication version of a paper accepted for publication by Third World Quarterly. It offers a critique of the picture of world growth and world inequality generally disseminated by international agencies. The positive view commonly presented depends, it shows, on the widespread consensus that economic performance should be measured using ‘Purchasing Power Parity’ (PPP) statistics, instead of market exchange rates. Although originally conceived narrowly as a basis for comparing living standards, PPP indicators are now promoted, with scant pause for critical thought, as a unique and unexceptionable standard for comparing and aggregating national income statistics. To get to the heart of the flaws in the PPP concept, this article adopts a unique approach: it accepts the claims made on their behalf at face value. It shows that, even on the basis of these claims, the wrong conclusions have been drawn, which in turn shows that they are not fit for purpose. By comparing PPP and Market Exchange Rate measures of inequality it shows that what really took place, in the closing decades of the last century, was a systematic reduction in the prices of consumption goods in the third world. PPP statistics have concealed this underlying and unsustainable trend, allowing it to be packaged as a stable reduction in poverty. Neither genuine growth, nor lasting and sustainable poverty reduction, were achieved over this period. The fall in the price of consumer goods masked a systematic failure, for much of the third world, to overcome the central problem of development – the high price of capital goods, which PPP statistics understate and, intermediate goods, which PPP statistics completely omit.
|Date of creation:||01 Dec 2008|
|Date of revision:||15 Aug 2009|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: Ludwigstraße 33, D-80539 Munich, Germany|
Web page: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de
More information through EDIRC
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Wade, Robert Hunter, 2004. "Is Globalization Reducing Poverty and Inequality?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 567-589, April.
- Martin Ravallion & Shaohua Chen & Prem Sangraula, 2009.
"Dollar a Day Revisited,"
World Bank Economic Review,
World Bank Group, vol. 23(2), pages 163-184, June.
- Prebisch, Raúl, 1950. "The economic development of Latin America and its principal problems," Sede de la CEPAL en Santiago (Estudios e Investigaciones) 29973, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:16827. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Joachim Winter)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.