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Tropentag, October 5 - 7, 2004 in Berlin

"Rural Poverty Reduction
through Research for Development and Transformation"

Measuring Poverty in Northern Vietnam: An Assessment of Different Poverty Indicators

Inga Häuser, Thomas Dufhues, Gertrud Buchenrieder

University of Hohenheim, Institute of Agricultural Economics and Social Sciences in the Tropics and Subtropics, Germany


During the 1990s, poverty reduction has become one of the major objectives of international and national development policies. For instance the United Nations? most prominent development target for 2015 is to halve the proportion of the world?s people who live on less than a dollar a day. Many development aid projects and national programs are also aiming at the direct or indirect reduction of poverty. It is intrinsic to all this policies / programs / projects to measure poverty and to setup poverty lines to evaluate their performance. Many methods are available for measuring poverty. The most commonly used method is based on income or expenditure levels. However, in many cases it is far easier to measure expenditure than income and, moreover, it has a conceptual advantage. If incomes vary over time in fairly predictable ways, households try to keep their living standard despite income variability. Thus, there is still vast disagreement, which method is best to measure poverty. Besides, measuring poverty is a costly undertaking. Thus, effective and efficient ways to measure poverty are to be investigated. In Vietnam, measuring poverty by the Government is a well known activity. Each household in Vietnam is classified once per year according to its living standard into one of five classes. So far, these poverty measurements have had no practical use for evaluating non-governmental poverty reduction programs. Many non-government organisations (NGOs) are skeptical about the soundness of the official poverty data. However, if proved reliable, those data could save resources for many NGOs as costly poverty measurements would become obsolete. The aim of this paper is to give an overview of different options to measure poverty and to assess which method would be most applicable and reliable in Vietnam. Furthermore, a set of different poverty measures will be applied to a household database from Northern Vietnam and then compared to the Government data. This will allow drawing conclusions about its robustness. Methodological this contribution combines an in-depth literature review with a quantitative data analysis. The database consists of cross-sectional household-level data (N=260) from two districts in Northern Vietnam, collected in 2001/2002.

Keywords: Poverty, poverty indicators, poverty measurement, Vietnam

Contact Address: Inga Häuser, University of Hohenheim, Institute of Agricultural Economics and Social Sciences in the Tropics and Subtropics, Hechinger Straße 12, 71229 Leonberg, Germany, e-mail: inga.haeuser@web.de

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