Monday, March 1, 2010

Poverty reduction across Africa

Pinkovskiy and Sala-i-Martin deliver the good news:
for the period 1970‐2006. We show that: (1) African poverty is falling and is falling rapidly. (2) If present trends continue, the poverty Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people with incomes less than one dollar a day will be achieved on time. (3) The growth spurt that began in 1995 decreased African income inequality instead of increasing it. (4) African poverty reduction is remarkably general: it cannot be explained by a large country, or even by a single set of countries possessing some beneficial geographical or historical characteristic. All classes of countries, including those with disadvantageous geography and history, experience reductions in poverty. In particular, poverty fell for both landlocked as well as coastal countries; for mineral‐rich as well as mineral‐poor countries; for countries with favorable or with unfavorable agriculture; for countries regardless of colonial origin; and for countries with below‐ or above-median slave exports per capita during the African slave trade
Hat tip: a last MR for the day

Follow up Edit: Ravallion's doubts about the result.


  1. I just talked with my African friend, and he read this conclusion, and he said it is not really true.

  2. In what sense? Is there one of the points he disagrees with or all of them? I take it he has only read the conclusion, rather than the paper, or else I'd ask which of the assumptions he disagrees with. Let me give a few more facts in their support for a moment:

    1) Their claim is that poverty has been falling since the economic growth spurt starting in 1995, not that poverty has been falling universally since 1970.

    3) Similarly, the claim about inequality reductions is also compared to the 1995 distribution.

    2) The paper's body is less of a headline than the conclusion in the abstract: poverty would be halved "within a few years" of the deadline, rather than exactly on time. If the DRC got down to the average poverty line -- an enormous if -- they would reach the goal ahead of schedule.

    Note also that the goal is written in terms of the percent of the population, not numbers of people. It's a much easier goal. The incidence of poverty can decrease much faster than the number. And of course there's room to argue about how they're defining poverty.

    4) And, just for good measure, note that the claim is not that poverty has been reduced in every country, nor in every region of every country; only that different types of countries have experienced decreased poverty. And again, there is little discussion of the speed of economic gains based on the factors that ought to matter - the conclusion is a simple 0/1 relation.

    The methodology is described in a different paper I haven't read, but there appear to be enough assumptions in it to warrant its own paper explaining them, and a person could take specific argument (I presume) with any of them.

    So do please ask your friend on what grounds he disagrees?