Do We Know How Much Poverty There is?

IADB Research Working Paper No. 437

40 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2001

See all articles by Miguel Szekely

Miguel Szekely

Independent

Nora Lustig

Tulane University

José Antonio Mejía

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) - Research Department

Martin Cumpa

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) - Research Department

Date Written: December 2000

Abstract

This paper tests the sensitivity of poverty indexes to the choice of adult equivalence scales, assumptions about the existence of economies of scale in consumption, methods for treating missing and zero incomes, and different adjustments to handle income miss reporting. We also perform sensitivity analysis to the use of different poverty lines and poverty indexes, which are issues that have been much more explored in the literature. The sensitivity analysis is applied to household survey data from 17 Latin American countries, which include 92% of the population in the region. By varying these parameters within reasonable boundaries, we find that the proportion of poor could be said to be either 12.7 percent or 65.8 percent of the total population. Additionally, the ranking of countries with respect to poverty is also highly sensitive. This points to the need of justifying and being explicit about the underlying choices and definitions behind poverty statistics, and to the need of performing sensitivity analysis illustrating the menu of options that can answer the question of how much poverty there is.

Keywords: household survey, poverty, equivalence scales, economies of scale, missing values, underreporting, Latin America

JEL Classification: D63, I32, 054

Suggested Citation

Szekely, Miguel and Lustig, Nora Claudia and Mejía-Guerra, José Antonio and Cumpa, Martin, Do We Know How Much Poverty There is? (December 2000). IADB Research Working Paper No. 437. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=258949 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.258949

Miguel Szekely (Contact Author)

Independent

No Address Available

Nora Claudia Lustig

Tulane University ( email )

6823 St Charles Ave
New Orleans, LA 70118
United States

José Antonio Mejía-Guerra

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) - Research Department ( email )

1300 New York Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20577
United States

Martin Cumpa

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) - Research Department ( email )

1300 New York Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20577
United States

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