A Fair Deal for Consumers?
Edited by Cecilia Ugaz
Chapter 3: Access to utilities by the poor: a global perspective
3. Access to utilities by the poor: a global perspective Kristin Komives, Dale Whittington and Xun Wu 1. INTRODUCTION This chapter presents a global perspective on infrastructure coverage and the poor that many people will think they have seen before but in fact have not.1 It is widely assumed that the poor in developing countries have fewer infrastructure services than middle and upper income households, but there is surprisingly little information on the actual empirical relationship between household income and infrastructure service coverage in diﬀerent countries. The available coverage statistics are typically country-wide averages. These are widely used to assess the scope and magnitude of infrastructure problems in developing countries, and they are often the only global, cross-country data available about infrastructure services. When such coverage statistics reveal that many households do not have service (that is, are ‘not covered’), it is generally assumed that such households are poor. Global coverage statistics are often compiled by international organizations such as the World Health Organization and the World Bank, and have profoundly shaped the way many people conceptualize infrastructure policy problems. Coverage data can aid in the description of an existing infrastructure situation, but they cannot be used to determine why such a situation exists, even if one were able to go back to the original datasets. This is because most surveys on which the coverage summaries are based do not ask respondents what services they could have chosen (but did not) and the attributes of such service options (such...
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