The Asian ‘Poverty Miracle’

The Asian ‘Poverty Miracle’

Impressive Accomplishments or Incomplete Achievements?

ADBI series on Asian Economic Integration and Cooperation

Edited by Jacques Silber and Guanghua Wan

Following rapid economic growth in recent decades, Asia and the Pacific experienced an impressive reduction in extreme poverty, but this drop was not uniform and achievements are still incomplete. Vulnerability to natural disasters, the increasing impact of climate change and economic crises should all be taken into account. There is also a need to consider the multidimensional nature of poverty and the non-uniformity of the decrease across different ethnic groups. This book explores the Asian ‘poverty miracle’ and argues for the development and use of an Asia-specific poverty line.

Chapter 7: Poverty and nutrition: a case study of rural households in Thailand and Viet Nam

Hermann Waibel and Lena Hohfeld

Subjects: asian studies, asian development, asian economics, development studies, asian development, development economics, economics and finance, asian economics, development economics


In this chapter, we analyze the link between nutrition and poverty in two Asian countries where monetary-based poverty reduction was especially successful. Thailand and Viet Nam are two emerging market economies where poverty rates are now below 10 percent and are declining further. Despite this success, it is not clear to what extent this success has translated into similar improvements in the nutritional situation of the people and especially of children. We find that undernutrition continues to be a problem in Viet Nam with child underweight rates of 27 percent and therefore higher than headcount rates of the $1.25 poverty line. Also, Thailand, after the economic crisis, with 19 percent of children underweight, is still above the World Health Organization’s threshold. We investigate the factors that influence nutrition outcomes, measured as Z-scores of the weight-for-age indicator, by using Tobit regressions for four different groups of children, based on income (poor versus non-poor) and nutrition (underweight versus non-underweight). We find that poverty and income influence nutrition outcomes, but other factors such as mother’s height, education, migration and sanitation also affect nutrition. Coefficients of respective variables differ by poverty status. Our conclusion that non-monetary factors matter to reduce undernutrition, and, therefore, monetary poverty reduction is not a sufficient condition, is further underlined by a prediction of future undernutrition rates based on regressions. Also, we find that, even under the assumption of high growth, income growth alone will not be able to reduce undernutrition to a level of low severity until the year 2030.

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