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Measuring Poverty

Giving voice to the poor: Adding a human touch to poverty data in South Sudan

Utz Pape's picture

We humanize what is going on in the world and in ourselves only by speaking of it, and in the course of speaking of it we learn to be human. –Hannah Arendt

We all know that measuring poverty is critical to monitor progress and to tailor effective policy response. But what the numbers mask is the pain and suffering that people go through to make ends meet. Let’s take the case of South Sudan. The country has had a very tumultuous time, witnessing more than its share of a few crises between 2015 and 2016. The collapse of a fragile peace accord led to a renewed military confrontation while simultaneously international oil prices dropped, depriving South Sudan of its main source of foreign exchange. This triggered a severe fiscal and economic crisis, leading to sky rocketing prices as documented in our real time market price dashboard. Securing livelihoods has become more and more difficult with 66 percent of the population now living in poverty, a new peak.

The 66 percent number certainly summarizes the country’s poverty level, which is unquestionably useful for comparisons and analyses to inform policies and programs. However, what the number doesn’t reveal is the struggle that families go through daily. To capture this aspect and give a humane feel to an abstract poverty number, we have started collecting short video testimonials from people living in South Sudan as part of the High Frequency Survey:

From Jordan to Liberia: Imputing, modeling and measurement in a world of imperfect data

Kristen Himelein's picture

Simply stated, we never have enough data. This is true from smallest low income countries in Africa to the largest more complex economy in the West.  And the need grows continuously as interconnected world markets and leapfrogging technologies smash through any remaining notions of a standard path to prosperity. For many countries in the developing world, the unfortunate paradox is that they have the greatest needs but the fewest resources, both financial and in terms of capacity.  In this setting, researchers in statistics and economics have been developing new techniques to expand the usefulness of limited data. The broad body of work is collected under the umbrella “survey-to-survey imputation” and includes two recently-published papers in the World Bank Policy Research Working Paper series, “Updating Poverty Estimates at Frequent Intervals in the Absence of Consumption Data: Methods and Illustration with Reference to a Middle-Income Country,” by Hai-Anh Dang, Peter Lanjouw, and Umar Serajuddin, and “Estimating Poverty in the Absence of Consumption Data: The Case of Liberia,” by Andrew Dabalen, Errol Graham, Kristen Himelein, and Rose Mungai. (Fortunately the authors are much more creative in their approach to analysis than in their approach to naming papers.) 

2014 Annual Meetings Guide to Webcast Events

Donna Barne's picture

How can economic growth benefit more people? What will it take to double the share of renewables in the global energy mix? Will the world have enough food for everyone by 2050? You can hear what experts have to say on these topics and others, ask questions, and weigh in at more than 20 webcast events from Oct. 7 to 11. That's when thousands of development leaders gather in Washington for the World Bank-International Monetary Fund Annual Meetings. Several events will be live-blogged or live-tweeted in multiple languages. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter with #wblive and other hashtags connected to events. We’ve compiled a sampling of events and hashtags below.  Check out the full schedule or download the Annual Meetings app for Apple devices and Android smartphones.