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The Political Economy of Antipoverty Spending and Poverty Measurement


  • Stefano Barbieri

    () (Department of Economics, Tulane University)

  • Sean Higgins

    () (University of California, Berkeley)


Governments around the world are changing the way they measure poverty, adopting multidimensional poverty measures that take into account deprivations in health, education, and other dimensions. This, in turn, can affect the incentives of government agents, their strategic interactions, and total antipoverty spending. Does adopting a multidimensional poverty measure lead to higher government spending on the poor? If so, why? And how does it affect resource allocations across government ministries? We answer these questions in a game-theoretic framework in which line ministers receive prestige by reducing poverty. Adopting a multidimensional index enables more ministers to directly influence measured poverty; however, improvements in the scalar index become a public good, engendering free riding on others' antipoverty spending. The multidimensional measure also creates a new set of policy levers, which policymakers can use to maximize government prestige or antipoverty spending; these two objectives generally conflict.

Suggested Citation

  • Stefano Barbieri & Sean Higgins, 2016. "The Political Economy of Antipoverty Spending and Poverty Measurement," Working Papers 1604, Tulane University, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2017.
  • Handle: RePEc:tul:wpaper:1604

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alkire, Sabina & Foster, James, 2011. "Counting and multidimensional poverty measurement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7-8), pages 476-487, August.
    2. Sabina Alkire & James Foster, 2011. "Understandings and misunderstandings of multidimensional poverty measurement," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 9(2), pages 289-314, June.
    3. Sabina Alkire, James E. Foster, Suman Seth, Maria Emma Santos, Jose M. Roche and Paola Ballon, 2015. "Multidimensional Poverty Measurement and Analysis: Chapter 9 - Distribution and Dynamics," OPHI Working Papers ophiwp090_ch9.pdf, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford.
    4. Sabina Alkire, James E. Foster, Suman Seth, Maria Emma Santos, Jose M. Roche and Paola Ballon, 2015. "Multidimensional Poverty Measurement and Analysis: Chapter 7 - Data and Analysis," OPHI Working Papers ophiwp088_ch7.pdf, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford.
    5. Sabina Alkire & James Foster & Maria Santos, 2011. "Where did identification go?," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 9(3), pages 501-505, September.
    6. Alkire, Sabina & Santos, Maria Emma, 2014. "Measuring Acute Poverty in the Developing World: Robustness and Scope of the Multidimensional Poverty Index," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 251-274.
    7. Alkire, Sabina & Foster, James & Seth, Suman & Santos, Maria Emma & Roche, Jose Manuel & Ballon, Paola, 2015. "Multidimensional Poverty Measurement and Analysis," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199689491.
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    More about this item


    Antipoverty spending; poverty measurement; free riding; public good games.;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty

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