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 8: Poverty and ethnicity in Asian countries

Carlos Gradín

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


This chapter compares the extent and the nature of the higher prevalence of poverty among disadvantaged ethnic groups in six Asian countries using demographic surveys. We first estimate a composite wealth index as a proxy for economic status, and analyze the magnitude of the ethnic gap in absolute and relative poverty levels across six countries and different ethnicities in those countries. Then, we use regression-based counterfactual analysis for explaining these ethnic differentials in poverty. We compare the actual differential in poverty with the gap that remains after disadvantaged ethnic groups are given the distribution of characteristics of the advantaged ethnic groups (by reweighting their densities using propensity scores). Our results show that there is a substantial cross-country variability in the extension, evolution, and nature of the ethnic poverty gap, which is as high as 50 percentage points or more in some specific cases in Nepal, Pakistan, or India. The gap in the latter country increased over the analyzed period, while it was reduced in the Philippines. Our analyses indicate that factors that contribute to ethnic disadvantaged groups being poorer are the strongly persistent high inequalities in education (for example, India, Nepal, and Pakistan), in regional development (for example, the Philippines) and the large urban–rural gap (for example, Pakistan).

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