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Too poor to grow

Listed author(s):
  • Lopez, Humberto
  • Serven, Luis

Recent theoretical literature has suggested a variety of mechanisms through which poverty may deter growth and become self-perpetuating. A few papers have searched for empirical regularities consistent with those mechanisms – such as aggregate non-convexities and convergence clubs. However, a seemingly basic implication of the theoretical models, namely that countries suffering from higher levels of poverty should grow less rapidly, has remained untested. This paper attempts to fill that gap and provide a direct empirical assessment of the impact of poverty on growth. The paper’s strategy involves including poverty indicators among the explanatory variables in an otherwise standard empirical growth equation. Using a large panel dataset, the authors find that poverty has a negative impact on growth that is significant both statistically and economically. This result is robust to a variety of specification changes, including (i) different poverty lines; (ii) different poverty measures; (iii) different sets of control variables; (iv) different estimation methods; (v) adding inequality as a control variable; and (vi) allowing for nonlinear effects of inequality on growth. The paper also finds evidence that the adverse effect of poverty on growth works through investment: high poverty deters investment, which in turn lowers growth. Further, the data suggest that this mechanism only operates at low levels of financial development, consistent with the predictions of theoretical models that underscore financial market imperfections as a key ingredient of poverty traps.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 5012.

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Date of creation: 01 Oct 2009
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5012
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  1. Bryan Graham & Jonathan Temple, 2006. "Rich Nations, Poor Nations: How Much Can Multiple Equilibria Explain?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 5-41, March.
  2. Kraay, Aart & Raddatz, Claudio, 2007. "Poverty traps, aid, and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 315-347, March.
  3. Dollar, David & Kraay, Aart, 2002. "Growth Is Good for the Poor," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 195-225, September.
  4. Arellano, Manuel & Bover, Olympia, 1995. "Another look at the instrumental variable estimation of error-components models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 29-51, July.
  5. Ben-David, Dan, 1998. "Convergence clubs and subsistence economies," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 155-171, February.
  6. Quah, Danny, 1993. "Empirical cross-section dynamics in economic growth," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(2-3), pages 426-434, April.
  7. Foster, James & Greer, Joel & Thorbecke, Erik, 1984. "A Class of Decomposable Poverty Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(3), pages 761-766, May.
  8. McKenzie, David J & Woodruff, Christopher, 2006. "Do Entry Costs Provide an Empirical Basis for Poverty Traps? Evidence from Mexican Microenterprises," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(1), pages 3-42, October.
  9. Francisca Antman & David McKenzie, 2007. "Poverty traps and nonlinear income dynamics with measurement error and individual heterogeneity," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(6), pages 1057-1083.
  10. Banerjee, Abhijit V & Newman, Andrew F, 1994. "Poverty, Incentives, and Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 211-215, May.
  11. Azariadis, Costas & Stachurski, John, 2005. "Poverty Traps," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 5 Elsevier.
  12. Barro, Robert J & Lee, Jong-Wha, 2001. "International Data on Educational Attainment: Updates and Implications," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 53(3), pages 541-563, July.
  13. Blundell, Richard & Bond, Stephen, 1998. "Initial conditions and moment restrictions in dynamic panel data models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 115-143, August.
  14. David F. Hendry & Hans-Martin Krolzig, 2004. "We Ran One Regression," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 66(5), pages 799-810, December.
  15. David F. Hendry & Hans-Martin Krolzig, 2004. "We Ran One Regression," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 66(5), pages 799-810, December.
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