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The Emperor’s New Suit: Global Poverty Estimates Reappraised


  • Sanjay G. Reddy


The recent revision of the World Bank’s global poverty estimates based on a new $1.25 (2005 PPP) poverty line underlines their unreliability and lack of meaningfulness. It is very difficult to justify various aspects of the Bank’s approach. In the short term, less weight should be given to the Bank’s poverty estimates in monitoring the first MDG. In the longer term, a solution to the observed problems requires adopting an altogether different method. Such an alternative exists but requires global institutional coordination. Until it is implemented, the crisis in the monitoring of global consumption poverty can be expected to intensify. Subsequent versions of this paper, correcting errors or extending the argument, will be made available on

Suggested Citation

  • Sanjay G. Reddy, 2009. "The Emperor’s New Suit: Global Poverty Estimates Reappraised," Working Papers 79, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.
  • Handle: RePEc:une:wpaper:79

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Chen, Shaohua & Ravallion, Martin, 2001. "How Did the World's Poorest Fare in the 1990s?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 47(3), pages 283-300, September.
    2. Timothy Besley & Robin Burgess, 2003. "Halving Global Poverty," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 3-22, Summer.
    3. Carlson, Andrea & Lino, Mark & Juan, WenYen & Hanson, Kenneth & Basiotis, P. Peter, 2007. "Thrifty Food Plan, 2006," CNPP Reports 42899, United States Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.
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    Cited by:

    1. Abu-Ismail Khalid & Sarang Niranjan, 2015. "Rethinking the Measurement of the Middle Class: Evidence from Egypt," WIDER Working Paper Series 023, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    2. Khan Shahrukh Rafi, 2011. "Growth Diagnostics: The Puzzle of Pakistan's Lagging Economic Growth," Global Economy Journal, De Gruyter, vol. 11(4), pages 1-19, December.
    3. Sanjay G. Reddy, 2012. "Towards the Arab Renaissance," Policy Research Brief 18, International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth.

    More about this item


    Millennium Development Goals; poverty; purchasing power parities (PPPs); world poverty;

    JEL classification:

    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • C80 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - General
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O19 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - International Linkages to Development; Role of International Organizations

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