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Household Surveys

Can a picture from space help to measure poverty in a Guatemalan village?

Andrea Coppola's picture

Also available in: Español

John Grunsfeld, former NASA Chief Scientist and veteran of five Space Shuttle flights, had several chances to look down at Earth, and noticed how poverty can be recognized from far away. Unlike richer countries, typically lined in green, poorer countries with less access to water are a shocking brown color. During the night, wealthier countries light up the sky whereas nations with less widespread electricity look dim.
 
Dr. Grunsfeld’s observation might have important implications. Pictures from satellites could become a tool to help identifying where poverty is, by zooming in to the tiniest villages and allowing a constant monitoring that cannot be achieved with traditional surveys.

More people in the developing world are eating out. Measuring this well could change our understanding of poverty and inequality

Renos Vakis's picture
Most of you probably buy lunch during the week, but can you recall what you ate yesterday? How about last week, did you snack in the afternoon? How much did you spend? Answering these questions is not as easy as you think, is it? Food consumed away from home (‘FAFH’ in short) represents an increasing share of food consumption around the world, caused by various factors including increasing urbanization, female labor force participation and evolving food systems that have made food availability easier.

To measure poverty over time, we need to do more!

Luc Christiaensen's picture

The latest World Bank estimates suggest that the percentage of the developing world’s population living below $1.25 a day declined from 52% in 1981 to 22% in 2008. While this indicates that there is still a long way to go in poverty reduction, the progress is encouraging. Moreover, we now also appear to be in a much better position to make such statements. The numbers above, by my colleagues at the Department Research Group, are based on over 850 household surveys for nearly 130 developing countries, representing 90% of the population of the developing world. By contrast, they used only 22 surveys for 22 countries when the first such estimates were reported in the 1990 World Development Report.

Welfare, Assets, Data Availability and the Living Standards Measurement Study

Kinnon Scott's picture

One is always grateful to see attention paid to the quality and quantity of household data available to study poverty. It is a subject dear to my heart and to my colleagues in the Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS ) in the World Bank. In sub-Saharan Africa, as a recent Global Dashboard post titled “What do we really know about poverty and inequality?” by Claire Melamed points out, there is still a dearth of data, even after years of government effort and international support. But there are data -- in some countries lots of data -- so it’s worth highlighting what is there. Today I wanted to add some nuance to the discussion of income and assets raised by Claire and, probably more importantly, steer people to some new data that will, we hope, excite the most blasé of you out there.