Vietnam's evolving poverty map : patterns and implications for policy
This paper uses small area estimation techniques to update Vietnam's province and district-level poverty map to 2009. It finds that poverty rates continue to be highest in the northern and central mountainous regions, where ethnic minorities make up a large fraction of the population. Poverty has fallen in most provinces and districts over this decade, but the pace of poverty reduction has been least pronounced in those localities with high initial poverty or inequality levels. As a result, poverty rates have become more spatially concentrated over time, which is consistent with widely observed growth processes linked to agglomeration. The authors hypothesize that this makes geographic targeting of the poor more relevant as a means to re-balance growing welfare disparities between geographic areas. Simulations indicate that in both 1999 and 2009, geographic targeting for poverty alleviation improves upon a uniform lump-sum transfer and this becomes more evident the more spatially disaggregated the target populations. The analysis further indicates that the gains from geographic targeting have become more pronounced over time in Vietnam. Although poverty reduction in Vietnam has been impressive, further progress may thus warrant increased attention to geographic targeting.
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