Click here for search results

About the Program

Economic growth is essential to poverty reduction, but the extent to which it is “pro-poor”, that is, the speed with which growth improves the quality of life of the poor, varies widely. To ensure that growth actually delivers significant poverty reduction, governments need resources and tools to fully grasp the extent and distribution of poverty in their countries; to analyze the forces behind growth and poverty; and to develop policies to ensure that the poor benefit disproportionately from growth. These resources include tools that deliver sustained, accurate and multi-dimensional measurement of poverty, a detailed factual understanding of the conditions and characteristics of the poor, an accurate reading of how different drivers of growth affect the poor, and the role of initial conditions in determining these effects.
Poverty and inequality data

The Bank is the world’s leading producer of data on poverty and inequality, from household survey data to compilations of summary statistics drawn from that data. Four areas of work stand out:

The Comparative Living Standards Project
. The CLSP is a unique effort to create a well-documented, standardized and accessible micro-data base for measuring poverty and inequality at country level across countries, based initially on the Living Standards Measurement Surveys.
Aggregate poverty and inequality measures. Some data problems have emerged, such as comparability problems between countries and discrepancies between growth rates implied by household surveys and national accounts. The team is reviewing the methodology used for this work and seeking improvements to it.

Better poverty profiles: Poverty profiles are used to describe the characteristics of poverty within a country. Research is needed to develop new techniques for increasing the detail available in poverty profiles, including census-based poverty maps.

Better household surveys: Virtually every component of this research is likely to have feedback implications for the LSMS and other household surveys. The research will generate concrete recommendations for better surveys, a resource that supports global research and policy development.

Aggregate distributional change & household income dynamics

The increased availability of survey data over time, spanning periods of economic policy reform and “globalization”, enables deeper empirical analysis of the determinants of distributional change. A major component of this entails developing new tools to assess the impact of macro-level policies or shocks on the distribution of income, combining micro-simulation techniques based on standard household surveys with aggregate demand and supply functions. Such macro-micro linkages will be critical in elucidating the poverty effects of policies such as trade liberalization, debt relief or development aid transfers. In addition, panel data studies have suggested considerable “churning”—shifting of income among groups and individuals—beneath the surface of aggregate distributional statistics. An important challenge remains to test the theoretical arguments as to why this occurs, and flesh out their implications for development policy.

The economic geography of poverty

Local and regional disparities in economic performance and living standards are widespread. With increased decentralization, countries seek guidance on spatial aspects of development, including strategies for development in lagging, agro-climatically ill-favored or environmentally sensitive regions, and urban-rural linkages. There is also a growing appreciation that the effects and effectiveness of antipoverty and development interventions vary with existing patterns of population density, agro-climate, social capital, market access, and so on. Using new data sets—including sub-provincial, geophysical, infrastructure, emissions and climatic data—the Poverty Dynamics research unit is using powerful new tools to explore these issues and various policy options to address them.