Martin Ravallion

Martin Ravallion
Georgetown University | GU · Department of Economics

About

476
Publications
120,377
Reads
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44,131
Citations
Citations since 2017
39 Research Items
12335 Citations
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Introduction
Skills and Expertise

Publications

Publications (476)
Article
In a rare example of a national goal for income distribution besides reducing poverty (for which there is a broad consensus), China's leadership committed in 2021 to attaining a less polarized “olive-shaped” distribution. The paper argues that the Foster-Wolfson polarization curve and index are well suited to quantifying this goal. New estimates in...
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Full-text available
The path of income inequality in post-reform China has been widely interpreted as “China’s Kuznets curve.” We show that the Kuznets growth model of structural transformation in a dual economy, alongside population urbanization, has little explanatory power for our new series of inequality measures back to 1981. Our simulations tracking the partial...
Article
Widely‐used in‐kind benefits are often rationed across potential participants in social programmes. This poses an operational challenge in implementation with limited public information. One possible solution is to randomize assignment given the available information. However, as this paper shows, neither the purposive targeting of in‐kind benefits...
Article
Full-text available
Low response rates among rich households are thought to be a serious problem in many applications using household surveys. The paper discusses the various ways the problem can be dealt with, and makes some recommendations for practice, including in developing countries. Under certain conditions, income-selective non-compliance with an initially ran...
Article
It will be politically difficult to liberalize international economic migration without some form of compensation for host-country workers. The paper explores the scope for managing migration using a government-regulated competitive market for work permits. We propose that host-county workers should be granted the legal option of renting out their...
Article
The prevailing narrative of a huge reduction in income poverty in China since reforms began in 1978 does not accord with all the evidence. The paper tries to reconcile the conflicting findings. The rise in poverty counts indicated by the strongly-relative measures in the literature is not credible given the properties of these measures. More surpri...
Chapter
How unequal is the world today? Is global income inequality falling—or is it rising, as one often hears? The chapter reviews the arguments and evidence. A number of concerns about the underlying data are identified, with biases going in both directions. Conceptual issues further cloud the picture. The claim that global inequality has been falling s...
Article
In October 2019, Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer jointly won the 51st Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel "for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty." But what is the exact scope of their experimental method, known as randomized control trials (RCTs)? Which sorts of questions...
Article
This article critically assesses prevailing measures of global poverty. A welfarist interpretation of global poverty lines is augmented by the idea of normative functionings, the cost of which varies across countries. In this light, current absolute measures are seen to ignore important social effects on welfare, while popular, strongly relative me...
Article
We study the evolution of consumption‐poverty measures for post‐independence India, including 20 years since extensive economic reforms began in 1991. Progress against poverty was negligible until the mid‐1970s, after which a downward trend in poverty measures emerged. The pace of poverty reduction accelerated in the post‐reform period, despite ris...
Chapter
The idea of a poverty trap has been around for a long time, but remains relevant today. In the classic model, over time, a low-level attractor pulls in any wealth-poor people nearby. Yet, this coexists with other, preferred, equilibria—some stable, some not. Getting people out of the trap will not be possible with only a small transient gain in wea...
Article
It is theoretically ambiguous whether people in richer countries have a higher floor to their living standards. Nor is it clear whether social protection spending reaches the poorest and thus lifts the floor. Across countries, the paper finds that higher mean incomes come with a higher floor. The bulk of this is direct rather than via public spendi...
Article
Prevailing methods for evaluating workfare schemes are inconsistent with the arguments made for workfare in poor rural economies. Those arguments emphasize the existence of higher involuntary underemployment among the poor and the fact that the type of work provided by these schemes gives disutility, deterring non-poor households from participating...
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Full-text available
Policymakers often assume that targeting observably poor households suffices in reaching nutritionally deprived individuals. We question that assumption. Our comprehensive assessment for sub-Saharan Africa reveals that undernourished women and children are spread widely across the household wealth and consumption distributions. Roughly three-quarte...
Article
Current global inequality measures assume that national-mean income does not matter to economic welfare at given household income as measured in surveys. The paper questions that assumption on theoretical and empirical grounds and finds that prominent stylized facts about global inequality are not robust. At one extreme, theories of relative depriv...
Article
Spillover effects within randomized clusters pose a challenge for identifying impacts of an individualized treatment. The paper proposes a solution. Longitudinal and intra‐household observations are combined in estimating the direct knowledge gain from watching an info‐movie in rural India, while randomized village assignment identifies knowledge s...
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Full-text available
Proxy-means tests (PMTs) are popular for poverty-targeting with imperfect information. In a widely-used version, a regression for log consumption calibrates a PMT score based on covariates, which is then implemented for targeting out-of-sample. The performance of various PMT methods is assessed using data for nine African countries. Standard PMTs h...
Article
As normally measured, “global inequality” is the relative inequality of incomes found among all people in the world no matter where they live. Francois Bourguignon and Branko Milanovic have written insightful and timely books on global inequality, emphasizing the role of globalization. The books are complementary: Milanovic provides an ambitious br...
Article
The Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) rates from the 2011 round of the International Comparison Program (ICP) imply some dramatic revisions to price levels and real incomes across the world as compared to the prior 2005 round. This has important implications for many cross-country comparisons, including measures of poverty and inequality. Without presu...
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Full-text available
On the presumption that poorer people tend to work less, it is often claimed that standard measures of inequality and poverty are overestimates. The paper points to a number of reasons to question this claim. It is shown that, while the labor supplies of American adults have a positive income gradient, the heterogeneity in labor supplies generates...
Article
A hybrid of the hyperbolic sine and its inverse is proposed for applications that require a concave log-like transformation of non-positive data, such as in measuring income and wealth inequality.
Article
We demonstrate that it is theoretically ambiguous whether growth of cities matters more to the rural poor than growth of towns. We then test empirically whether the economic growth of India’s secondary towns mattered more to recent rural poverty reduction than did growth of the big cities. Satellite observations of night lights are used to measure...
Chapter
There are two prominent versions of the idea that poverty promotes economic development. One version argues that poverty incentivizes workers, thus creating a strong, globally competitive economy. Another version postulates that higher marginal products of capital in poorer (capital-scarce) countries entail that they enjoy higher growth rates, such...
Article
Full-text available
Proxy-means testing is a popular method of poverty targeting with imperfect information. In a now widely-used version, a regression for log consumption calibrates a proxy-means test score based on chosen covariates, which is then implemented for targeting out-of-sample. In this paper, the performance of various proxy-means testing methods is assess...
Article
Full-text available
Traditional assessments of economic growth and progress against poverty tell us little about whether the poorest are being left behind—whether the consumption floor is rising above the biological minimum. To address this deficiency, the paper identifies the expected value of the floor as a weighted mean of observed consumptions for the poorest stra...
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Full-text available
While much progress has been made over the last 25 years in measuring global poverty, there are a number of challenges ahead. The paper discusses three sets of problems: (i) how to allow for social effects on welfare, recognizing the identification issues involved; (ii) the need to monitor progress in raising the consumption floor above its biologi...
Article
While self-assessments of welfare have become popular for measuring poverty and estimating welfare effects, the methods can be deceptive given systematic heterogeneity in respondents’ scales. Little is known about this problem. We study scale heterogeneity using specially designed surveys in three countries: Tajikistan, Guatemala, and Tanzania. Res...
Article
Does the World Bank still have an important role to play? How might it fulfill that role? The paper begins with a brief account of how the Bank works. It then argues that, while the Bank is no longer the primary conduit for capital from high-income to low-income countries, it still has an important role in supplying the public good of development k...
Article
How did we come to think that eliminating poverty is a legitimate goal for public policy? What policies emerged in the hope of attaining that goal? The last 200 years have witnessed a dramatic change in thinking about poverty. Mainstream economic thinking in the eighteenth century held that poverty was necessary and even desirable for a country's e...
Article
Mass public information campaigns have promised to empower poor people, but do they deliver on that promise? We designed and implemented a trial information campaign in poor rural areas of India, in the form of an entertaining movie that teaches people their rights under a large national antipoverty program. In randomly assigned villages, the movie...
Article
We know surprisingly little about the long-run impacts of household electrification. This paper studies the impacts on consumption in rural India over a 17-year period, allowing for both internal and external (village-level) effects. Under our identifying assumptions, electrification brought significant consumption gains for households who acquired...
Article
Past tests of the sensitivity of aggregate poverty measures to changes in equivalence scales can be very sensitive to the arbitrary choice of the pivotal reference demographics. It is recommended that future tests should use demographics typical of people living near the poverty line as their reference.
Article
Workfare has often seemed an attractive option for making self-targeted transfers to poor people. But is this incentive argument strong enough in practice to prefer unproductive workfare to even untargeted cash transfers? A nonparametric survey-based method is used to assess the cost-effectiveness of a large workfare scheme in a poor state of India...
Article
In what is probably the largest cash transfer program in the world today China’s Dibao program aims to fill all poverty gaps. In theory, the program creates a poverty trap, with 100% benefit withdrawal rate (BWR). But is that what we see in practice? The paper proposes an econometric method of estimating the mean BWR allowing for incentive effects,...
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Full-text available
The Luxembourg Income Study (now known as LIS) provides public access for research purposes to harmonized unit-record data sets for multiple countries, in addition to providing summary statistics from those data, including poverty and inequality measures. LIS is a well-managed and undeniably important global public institution for research on inequ...
Chapter
In a world with volatile food prices, countries have an incentive to shelter their populations from the induced real income shocks. When some agents are net food producers while others are net consumers, there is scope for insurance between the two groups. A domestic social protection scheme could transfer resources away from the former group to th...
Article
Full-text available
How much economic mobility is there across generations in a poor, primarily rural, economy? How much do intergenerational linkages contribute to current inequality? We address these questions using original survey data on Senegal that include a sub-household measure of consumption for cells within the household. While intergenerational linkages are...
Article
Aid effectiveness is still much debated. Angus Deaton's The Great Escape poses a serious challenge to advocates of international aid. Deaton argues that aid props up bad governments and so hinders progress against poverty despite donors' good intentions. If so then the bulk of today's aid industry should be shut down. But is Deaton right? The paper...
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Full-text available
Should income inequality be of concern in developing countries? New data reveal less income inequality in the developing world than 30 years ago. However, this is due to falling inequality between countries. Average inequality within developing countries has been slowly rising, though staying fairly flat since 2000. As a rule, higher rates of growt...
Article
The price surveys from the 2005 International Comparison Program (ICP) imply substantially lower levels of GDP at purchasing power parity (PPP) for many developing countries than prior estimates. While some observers have questioned the data, this paper argues that the pattern of changes in PPPs between ICP rounds makes economic sense. Consistently...
Article
Alternative scenarios are considered for reducing by one billion the number of people living below $1.25 a day. The low-case, "pessimistic," path to that goal would see the developing world outside China returning to its slower pace of growth and poverty reduction of the 1980s and 1990s, though with China maintaining its progress. This path would t...
Article
Standard absolute poverty measures probably understate poverty rates in rich countries, given that their residents face higher welfare costs of social inclusion and relative deprivation. At the same time, standard measures of relative poverty probably understate the extent of poverty in poor countries, given that these measures attach little value...
Article
In a world with volatile food prices, countries have an incentive to shelter their populations from induced real income shocks. When some agents are net food producers while others are net consumers, there is scope for insurance between the two groups. A domestic social protection scheme would therefore transfer resources away from the former group...
Article
Prevailing practices in evaluating workfare programs have ignored the disutility of the type of work done, with theoretically ambiguous implications for the impacts on poverty. In the case of India's National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, past assessments have relied solely on household consumption per person as the measure of economic welfare...
Article
Against what standards should we judge the developing world's overall performance against poverty going forward? The paper proposes two measures, each with both "optimistic" and "ambitious" targets for 2022, 10 years from the time of writing. The first measure is absolute consumption poverty, as judged by what "poverty" means in the poorest countri...
Article
Relative deprivation, shame and social exclusion can matter to the welfare of people everywhere. The authors argue that such social effects on welfare call for a reconsideration of how we assess global poverty, but they do not support standard measures of relative poverty. The paper argues instead for using a weakly-relative measure as the upper-bo...
Article
Full-text available
In 2005 India introduced an ambitious national anti-poverty program, now called the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. The program offers up to 100 days of unskilled manual labor per year on public works projects for any rural household member who wants such work at the stipulated minimum wage rate. The aim is to dramaticall...
Article
Many more impact evaluations could be done, and at lower unit cost, if evaluators could avoid the need for baseline data using objective socio-economic surveys and rely instead on retrospective subjective questions on how outcomes have changed, asked post-intervention. But would the results be reliable? This paper tests a rapid-appraisal, “shoestri...
Article
Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo offer a coherent vision for an economics of poverty and antipoverty policy. Their economics is grounded in an effort to understand the economic and psychological complexities in the lives of poor people, informed by social experiments and field observations. Their preferred policies entail small reforms at the marg...
Article
There is corruption in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, no question about that. But simple indices that claim to measure corruption and make an assessment of interstate levels of corruption can end up offering us a wrong understanding.
Article
The challenges faced in calibrating poverty and welfare measures to objective data have long been recognized. Until recently, most economists have resisted a seemingly obvious solution, namely to ask people themselves:"Do you feel poor?"The paper studies the case for and against this approach. It is argued that, while one would not want to use self...
Article
The inferences drawn from the most widely used regression models of subjective welfare are subject to a “frame-of-reference bias,” stemming from non-ignorable heterogeneity in subjective scales, such as what it means to be “rich” or “poor.” To test for this bias, respondents in Tajikistan were asked to rank the economic status of theoretical vignet...
Article
This article summarizes the recent evidence on global poverty and inequality, including both developed and developing countries. Section 1 discusses poverty and inequality data and presents evidence on levels and recent trends in poverty and inequality around the world. Section 2 turns to the issues involved in aggregating inequality indices across...
Article
Development impact calls for knowledgeable development practitioners. How then do the operational staff of the largest development agency value and use its research? Is there an incentive to learn and does it translate into useful knowledge? A new survey reveals that the bulk of the World Bank's senior staff value the Bank's research for their work...
Article
Each year, the mass media and many governments look keenly at the country rankings by the Human Development Index (HDI), as published in the annual Human Development Reports (HDR). Klugman, Rodriguez and Choi (KRC) were members of the team that produced the 20th anniversary edition of the HDR (United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 2010) whic...
Article
Randomized control trials are sometimes used to estimate the aggregate benefit from some policy or program. To address the potential bias from selective take-up, the randomization is used as an instrumental variable for treatment status. Does this (popular) method of impact evaluation help reduce the bias when take-up depends on unobserved gains fr...
Article
Bibliometric measures based on citations are widely used in assessing the scientific publication records of authors, institutions and journals. Yet currently favored measures lack a clear theoretical foundation and are known to have counter-intuitive properties. The paper proposes a new approach that is grounded on a theoretical “influence function...
Article
The contribution of recent “multidimensional indices of poverty” may not be as obvious as one thinks. There are two issues in assessing that contribution: whether one believes that a single index can ever be a sufficient statistic of poverty, and whether one aggregates in the space of “attainments,” using prices when appropriate, or “deprivations,”...

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