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Poverty Maps


Poverty maps are more than just a pretty map. They are a statistical tool developed to obtain estimates of welfare levels at very small areas - such as counties, municipalities or districts. -

n What are poverty maps?

Until recently, analyzing how welfare —as measured by per capita income or consumption— is distributed across small areas of a country was not possible due to data limitations: On the one hand, censuses normally do not contain good information on income or consumption; household surveys, on the other, contain such information but are not representative of small areas. The ‘poverty mapping’ (or, more formally, small-area estimation) technique developed by Elbers, Lanjouw, and Lanjouw (2003) combines the detailed information contained in household surveys with the representativity of censuses to obtain reliable estimates of welfare at the small-area level. What is more, this technique can also be used to estimate other indicators such as inequality and poverty rates in those small areas. All these estimates can then be represented graphically on a map using a scale of colors, which has given rise to the colloquial term “poverty maps.

n Uses of poverty maps

Poverty maps can be used for several purposes:

  • Highlighting the geographic variations in poverty
  • Understanding the determinants of poverty
  • Designing, targeting, and prioritizing interventions
    • Targeting of programs and projects (infrastructure, health, education, etc.)
    • Targeting of transfer programs
    • Developing regional policies
    • Prioritization within and between sectors
    • Coordination of sectors
    • Coordination of policies/programs/projects
  • Budget Allocation
    • Allocation of resources within programs, across projects
    • Allocation of resources across regions
    • Increasing transparency in allocation processes for greater accountability
  • Monitoring and Evaluation
    • Provide a baseline on living conditions
    • Monitoring progress in output and outcome indicators
  • Transparency and Social Accountability
    • Increase transparency in allocation processes
    • Result in greater social accountability

n Poverty maps in practice

Poverty Map Ecuador SMALLPoverty maps are being constructed for countries all over the world and are thus revealing an unprecedented picture of how welfare is distributed across the globe. A good illustration of this is presented in More Than A Pretty Picture.

In the Latin America and the Caribbean region, poverty maps are becoming an indispensable analytical tool for governments and researchers. Most countries have constructed at least one poverty map and others are working on their first one. The following table presents a summary of all the poverty maps that have been constructed for the region.




 Topic Brief
 Poverty and Inequality

  - Poverty Assessments
  - Poverty Reduction

  - Poverty Maps
 Data and Statistics
  - Team for Statistical

  - Socio-economic Database

 Monitoring and
 Evaluation Network

Featured Poverty Publications and Reports 


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