Inequality is of concern for at least three reasons. First, lower inequality per se is an objective for a decent society. Second, lower inequality improves the efficiency of economic growth in achieving poverty reduction. Third, high inequality impedes growth itself, through its impact on social cohesion and the investment climate.
This blog is written in response to a generous and humbling offer by the urban anchor at the World Bank to present my book on the Evolution of Great World Cities (Kennedy, 2011). Having provided occasional assistance to the Bank over the past few years, I realized how big a challenge this may be. The Bank has brainpower akin to an Ivy League university, and is a large organization with so many endeavours that are hard for me to keep abreast of. Nonetheless, while tackling enormously complex development challenges, the clear objective of the Bank is to help with the elimination of poverty. Given that my book is primarily about stinking rich cities, there’s a chance that I could completely miss my audience! There again, the rapid rate of urbanization in the developing world provides such a huge opportunity to bring millions out of poverty, if planned well - and many cities in the developing world no doubt aspire to be great world cities.
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.