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Some aspects of poverty in Sri Lanka : 1985-90


  • Datt, Gaurav
  • Gunewardena, Dileni


The authors characterize poverty in Sri Lanka, using data from two recent household surveys (for 1985-86 and1990-91). Poverty rates in 1990-91 were highest in the rural sector and lowest in the estate sector, with the urban sector in between. Between 1985-86 and 1990-91, national poverty declined modestly, almost entirely because of a fall in rural poverty (although poverty in the estate sector also declined). Agriculture, forestry, and fishing accounted for about 80 percent of the decline in national poverty. Favorable redistribution and growth in rural mean consumption accounted about equally for the decline in rural poverty. During the same period, urban poverty increased. But poverty in Sri Lanka is still largely a rural phenomenon. Nearly half the poor depend on agriculture for livelihood. Another 30 percent depend on other rural nonagricultural activities. Regional variations in poverty are fairly limited. Female-headed households are associated with greater poverty only in the urban sector. Poorer households tend to have higher dependency ratios, fewer years of schooling, lower rates of participation in the labor force, and significantly higher rates of unemployment. Direct transfer benefits from the Food Stamp Program are progressive and have a greater impact on poverty than uniform allocations from the same budget. Economic growth could reduce poverty considerably.

Suggested Citation

  • Datt, Gaurav & Gunewardena, Dileni, 1997. "Some aspects of poverty in Sri Lanka : 1985-90," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1738, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1738

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    4. Aturupane, Harsha & Glewwe, Paul & Isenman, Paul, 1994. "Poverty, Human Development, and Growth: An Emerging Consensus?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 244-249, May.
    5. Sahn, David E & Alderman, Harold, 1996. "The Effect of Food Subsidies on Labor Supply in Sri Lanka," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(1), pages 125-145, October.
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    7. Bhalla, Surjit S & Glewwe, Paul, 1986. "Growth and Equity in Developing Countries: A Reinterpretation of the Sri Lankan Experience," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 1(1), pages 35-63, September.
    8. Chen, Shaohua & Datt, Gaurav & Ravallion, Martin, 1994. "Is Poverty Increasing in the Developing World?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 40(4), pages 359-376, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gunewardena, Dileni, 2004. "Improving poverty measurement in Sri Lanka," MPRA Paper 7695, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised May 2005.


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