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Poverty, Inequality and Growth in Zambia during the 1990s


  • McCulloch, Neil
  • Baulch, Bob
  • Cherel-Robson, Milasoa


Since the early 1990s, the Zambian government has undertaken major economic reforms. A sharp stabilisation early in the decade was followed by reforms in agricultural marketing, a large privatisation programme, sweeping trade policy reforms and reforms to the public sector. This paper uses household survey data from 1991, 1996 and 1998 to chart the evolution of poverty and inequality during the 1990s. The economic policies pursued during the decade are described and linkages drawn between the policies implemented and the observed changes in poverty and inequality. Our study finds a dramatic increase in poverty and inequality in urban areas between 1991 and 1996 due to stabilisation, the removal of maize meal subsidies, and job losses resulting from trade liberalisation and the privatisation programme. Between 1996 and 1998, despite economic recovery at the national level, the reduction in urban poverty and inequality has been small. In rural areas, drought devastated rural livelihoods in the early 1990s, while maize marketing reforms principally benefited those near the major urban centres, and hurt more remote rural farmers. Consequently there was little change in the overall poverty headcount for rural areas between 1991 and 1996 although there was a substantial reduction in rural inequality during this period. The rural sector experienced strong growth between 1996 and 1998 and this translated into a substantial reduction in poverty in rural areas between the two years. However, differential access to inputs, transport and marketing services has led to an increase in rural inequality. The paper also shows that it is growth (and recession) rather than distributional change which has been primarily responsible for movements in poverty during the 1990s. However, calculations of the annual growth rate necessary to halve the poverty headcount by 2015 suggest that Zambia is unlikely to meet this International Development Target unless policy reforms are capable of gene
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  • McCulloch, Neil & Baulch, Bob & Cherel-Robson, Milasoa, 2001. "Poverty, Inequality and Growth in Zambia during the 1990s," WIDER Working Paper Series 123, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  • Handle: RePEc:unu:wpaper:dp2001-123

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    Cited by:

    1. Dorothée Boccanfuso & Samuel Tambi Kaboré, 2004. "Croissance, inégalité et pauvreté dans les années quatre-vingt-dix au Burkina Faso et au Sénégal," Revue d’économie du développement, De Boeck Université, vol. 12(2), pages 9-35.
    2. David E. Sahn, 2012. "Health Inequality across Populations of Individuals," African Development Review, African Development Bank, vol. 24(4), pages 316-326, December.
    3. L. Alan Winters, 2000. "Trade Liberalisation and Poverty," PRUS Working Papers 07, Poverty Research Unit at Sussex, University of Sussex.
    4. Temel Taskin, 2014. "GDP Growth in Turkey : Inclusive or Not?," Central Bank Review, Research and Monetary Policy Department, Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey, vol. 14(2), pages 31-64.
    5. L. ALAN WINTERS & NEIL McCULLOCH & ANDREW McKAY, 2015. "Trade Liberalization and Poverty: The Evidence So Far," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: Non-Tariff Barriers, Regionalism and Poverty Essays in Applied International Trade Analysis, chapter 14, pages 271-314 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    6. Jorge F. Balat & Guido G. Porto, 2007. "Globalization and Complementary Policies: Poverty Impacts on Rural Zambia," NBER Chapters,in: Globalization and Poverty, pages 373-416 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Nokkala, Marko, 2001. "Simulating the Effects of Debt Relief in Zambia," WIDER Working Paper Series 118, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    8. Sebastian Levine & Benjamin Roberts, 2013. "Robust Estimates of Changes in Poverty and Inequality in Post-Independence Namibia," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 81(2), pages 167-191, June.
    9. Sahn, David E. & Stifel, David C., 2003. "Progress Toward the Millennium Development Goals in Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 23-52, January.
    10. Maimbo, Samuel Munzele & Mavrotas, George, 2003. "Financial Sector Reforms and Savings Mobilization in Zambia," WIDER Working Paper Series 013, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    11. Therese Nilsson, 2010. "Health, Wealth and Wisdom: Exploring Multidimensional Inequality in a Developing Country," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 95(2), pages 299-323, January.
    12. Christian K.M. Kingombe & Salvatore di Falco, 2012. "The Impact of a Feeder Road Project on Cash Crop Production in Zambia’s Eastern Province between 1997 and 2002, Labour Market and Fiscal Policy," IHEID Working Papers 04-2012, Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies, revised 28 Feb 2012.
    13. te Velde, Dirk Willem & Morrissey, Oliver, 2003. "Spatial Inequality for Manufacturing Wages in Five African Countries," WIDER Working Paper Series 066, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    14. Balat, Jorge F. & Porto, Guido G., 2005. "The WTO Doha Round, cotton sector dynamics, and poverty trends in Zambia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3697, The World Bank.
    15. Acharya, Sanjaya, 2011. "Making unilateral trade liberalisation beneficial to the poor," Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 60-71, June.
    16. Christiaensen, Luc & Demery, Lionel & Paternostro, Stefano, 2003. "Reforms, Remoteness and Risk in Africa: Understanding Inequality and Poverty during the 1990s," WIDER Working Paper Series 070, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

    More about this item


    Zambia; Poverty; Growth; Inequality; Economic reform;

    JEL classification:

    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • C40 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - General


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