Time for the next poverty line in India


The time has come for India to boost its poverty line from the prevailing excessive poverty line of $1.90 per particular person per day to the lower-middle earnings (LMI) poverty line of $3.20, a stage some 68 p.c larger. This may increasingly appear odd to aspire to in what just isn’t even the primary post-pandemic yr, however that’s the major message popping out of our latest IMF working paper “Pandemic, Poverty and Inequality: Proof from India.”  

Nobody needs to be stunned at this want for the next poverty line. Per capita GDP development in India averaged 3.5 p.c each year for twenty years from 1983 to 2003. In 2004, the official poverty line was raised by 18 p.c, when the pinnacle rely ratio (HCR) was 27.5 p.c. Fast development (5.3 p.c each year) and an improved methodology of measurement of consumption (the modified blended recall interval (MMRP) moderately than the Uniform Recall Interval (URP)), resulted within the HCR reaching the low teenagers in 2011-12. The poverty line ought to have been raised then, as Bhalla (2010) argued. Most international locations change from the idea of absolute poverty to relative poverty as they get richer, and India ought to too. Relative povertytopic to minor debateis usually chosen to imply an HCR stage of round 1 / 4 or a 3rd of the inhabitants. Therefore, the$1.90 poverty line was already too low in 2011-12 and is extraordinarily low right now.

The HCR of the $1.90 poverty line (Determine 1) has proven a steep decline since 2004—from roughly a 3rd of the inhabitants in 2004 to lower than 1.5 p.c in 2019. These numbers are decrease than these proven within the World Financial institution’s Povcal database, probably the most generally used supply, as a result of Povcal doesn’t right for the deceptive uniform recall interval used or for the availability of meals subsidies.

Determine 1. The poverty charge in India steeply declined beginning in 2004

Poverty rate in India graph

Supply: NSS 2011-12 MMRP knowledge; Personal Closing Consumption Expenditure (PFCE)  development charges for estimates of month-to-month per capita consumption; authors’ calculations.

By our estimates, within the pre-pandemic yr 2019, excessive poverty was already beneath 1 p.c and regardless of the numerous financial recession in India in 2020, we imagine that the impression on poverty was small. It’s because we estimate poverty (HCR) after incorporating the advantages of in-kind meals (wheat and rice) subsidies for roughly 800 million people (75 p.c of rural and 50 p.c of city residents). This meals subsidy was not small and rose to shut to 14 p.c of the poverty line for the common subsidy recipient (Determine 2) in 2020. This was sufficient to include any rise in poverty even within the pandemic yr 2020.

Determine 2. Meals subsidies contained any will increase in poverty

Food subsidies contained any increases in poverty graph

Supply: NSS 2011-12 MMRP knowledge; Personal Closing Consumption Expenditure (PFCE)  development charges for estimates of month-to-month per capita consumption; Indian poverty line very near PPP $1.9 per capita per 30 days; authors’ calculations.

A notable function of the pandemic response was the availability of a free additional 5 kilograms of wheat or rice per particular person per 30 days by way of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) program plus 1 kg of pulses. This was along with the prevailing meals transfers of 5 kg per capita per 30 days of wheat or rice at sponsored costs. Whole sponsored meals grain in 2020 subsequently amounted to 10 kg, which is the common per capita stage of meals (wheat and rice) consumption by Indian residents for the final three a long time 

The extra meals subsidy was a pandemic-centric response. We might conjecture {that a} cross-country comparative research may present that this coverage response was presumably the simplest on the earth. Therefore, the Indian expertise can present classes for particular person international locations, and multilateral businesses involved with efficient redistribution of earnings.


The final official consumption survey (the premise for poverty measurement) in India was in 2011-12. The next survey performed in 2017-18 generated outcomes that haven’t been formally launched, on the grounds that the info weren’t of acceptable high quality. Our paper has an intensive dialogue on the validity of the proof concerning this controversial determination the place we conclude that the info is certainly unreliable and of extraordinarily questionable high quality and therefore shouldn’t be launched. A really latest World Financial institution April 2022 research by Edochie et. al. suggests assist for our conclusion and inference.  

Our paper presents a constant time sequence of poverty and (actual) inequality in India for every of the years 2004-2020. Our estimate of actual inequality (Determine 3) reveals that consumption inequality has additionally declined, and in 2020 may be very near the bottom historic stage of 0.28. Poverty and inequality traits may be emotive, controversial, and complicated. Consumption inequality is decrease than earnings inequality, which itself is decrease than wealth inequality. And every can present completely different traits. The degrees and traits are completely different, and intermingled use ought to carry a warning about this when discussing “inequality.” 

Determine 3. Consumption inequality in India has declined  

Consumption inequality in India has declined graph

Supply: NSS 2011-12 MMRP knowledge; Personal Closing Consumption Expenditure (PFCE)  development charges for estimates of month-to-month per capita consumption; authors’ calculations.

Our outcomes are completely different than a lot of the commentary and evaluation of poverty in India. All of the estimates are made within the absence of an official survey post-2011-12. A big a part of the reason for the distinction in outcomes is due to variations in definition. Our paper makes a robust case for the acceptance of the official consumption definition (accepted by most international locations and in addition beneficial by the World Financial institution); it needs to be measured in response to the classification of consumption in response to the character of the great or service consumed. That is the MMRP methodology for acquiring consumption expenditures. The Indian authorities has formally adopted this methodology, and the above talked about “ill-fated” 2017-18 survey was the primary time when the Nationwide Statistical Group completely measured consumption (and poverty) in response to the MMRP definition.

Nonetheless, many research proceed to depend on the now out of date uniform reference interval (URP or 30-day recall for all gadgets) methodology. For instance, a really latest World Financial institution research estimated the HCR to be round 10 p.c in 2019; it makes use of the outdated (URP) definition of consumption and doesn’t alter for meals subsidies. By the way, each in 2009-10 and 2011-12, the URP and MMRP poverty estimates diverged by roughly 10 proportion factors, as did their respective estimates of imply consumption. Thus, given the approximate magnitude of definition variations noticed each in 2009-10 and 2011-12 and making the required adjustment for meals subsidies, the World Financial institution poverty estimate for 2019 is prone to be very near our estimate.

Inclusive development is a really related coverage aim for all economies. With the pandemic ebbing and the IMF’s anticipated development for India rebounding very strongly for 3 successive years from 2021-23, Indian policymakers will quickly be confronted with a coverage selectionhow lengthy ought to they maintain the additional PMGKY subsidy? This question is a part of an enormous success story of poverty decline. Moreover, one other question pertains as to whether insurance policies ought to transfer towards focused money transfers as an alternative of sponsored meals grains.  

Prior to now, the important thing argument in assist of a coverage shift to money transfers was to scale back leakages, however our outcomes point out that leakages have considerably been lowered during the last decade even within the in-kind meals switch scheme. In truth, the latest meals switch program was a really profitable intervention, particularly in the course of the pandemic when provide chains had been breaking down and there was heightened uncertainty. Underneath regular circumstances, money transfers are prone to be extra environment friendly, they usually retain broadly the identical allocative outcomes as meals transfers. The talk subsequently now needs to be on the effectivity trade-offs related to use of both in-kind or money transfers as the important thing instrument of poverty alleviation. 

These debates are important given the advance in focusing on of transfers and are in line with the target of constructing a contemporary social safety structure in creating international locations.  

Accumulating all of the proof, the sturdy conclusion from our work is that Indian coverage has successfully delivered each development and inclusion, and in a elementary sense has faithfully adopted the Rawlsian maximin preceptmaximizing the welfare of the poorest.


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