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The Poverty Burden: A Measure of the Difficulty of Ending Extreme Poverty


  • John Quiggin

    () (Department of Economics, University of Queensland)

  • Renuka Mahadevan

    () (Department of Economics, University of Queensland)


In this paper, we consider an extension of the commonly used poverty gap measure that may be used to address he question of whether the elimination of poverty is a feasible objective, given sufficient political commitment. The resources potentially available to address poverty may be measured by the total amount by which the incomes of the non-poor exceed the same poverty line. The ratio of the poverty gap to the resources potentially available is equal to the proportional tax rate on incomes in excess of the poverty line that would be required to fund a transfer sufficient to raise the incomes of all poor people to the poverty line. We refer to this ratio as the ‘poverty burden’ (PB). We provide a formal definition of the poverty burden and an analysis of its properties as a poverty measure.

Suggested Citation

  • John Quiggin & Renuka Mahadevan, 2010. "The Poverty Burden: A Measure of the Difficulty of Ending Extreme Poverty," Australian Public Policy Program Working Papers WPP10_2, Risk and Sustainable Management Group, University of Queensland.
  • Handle: RePEc:rsm:pubpol:p10_2

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Oecd, 2002. "Aid volume, channels and allocations for poverty reduction," OECD Journal on Development, OECD Publishing, vol. 3(3), pages 33-46.
    2. Ravallion, Martin, 1996. "Issues in Measuring and Modelling Poverty," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(438), pages 1328-1343, September.
    3. Raghuram G. Rajan & Arvind Subramanian, 2008. "Aid and Growth: What Does the Cross-Country Evidence Really Show?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 643-665, November.
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    5. David Dollar & Craig Burnside, 2000. "Aid, Policies, and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 847-868, September.
    6. Foster, James E, 1998. "Absolute versus Relative Poverty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 335-341, May.
    7. Carl-Johan Dalgaard & Henrik Hansen & Finn Tarp, 2004. "On The Empirics of Foreign Aid and Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(496), pages 191-216, June.
    8. Machina, Mark J, 1982. ""Expected Utility" Analysis without the Independence Axiom," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(2), pages 277-323, March.
    9. Vaughan, R N, 1987. "Welfare Approaches to the Measurement of Poverty," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(388a), pages 160-170, Supplemen.
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    14. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lidia Ceriani & Paolo Verme, 2014. "The Income Lever and the Allocation of Aid," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 50(11), pages 1510-1522, November.

    More about this item


    Index numbers; Poverty; Aid;

    JEL classification:

    • C43 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Index Numbers and Aggregation
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • F35 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Aid

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