Poverty by Social, Religious and Economic Groups in India and Its Largest States 1993-94 to 2011-12

by Arvind Panagariya, Columbia and Vishal More

Taking advantage of the household expenditure data from the 68th round of the National Sample Survey, conducted in 2011-12, we offer a comprehensive and up-to-date evaluation of the pattern of poverty alleviation across social, religious and economic groups in rural and urban India both nationally and at the level of the state.  Poverty estimates at the Tendulkar line show that no mater what criterion we choose to slice the data (social, religious or economic groups), poverty has declined sharply between 1993- 94 and 2011-12 with a significant acceleration during the faster-growth period of 2004-05 to 2011-12.  Poverty rates among the Scheduled Castes have declined particularly sharply with the gap between these rates and those associated with the general population narrowing considerably.  Poverty among the Scheduled Tribes has also declined with acceleration in the decline between 2004-05 and 2011-12 but the level remains high with significant scope and need for targeted action.  Surprisingly, in as many as seven out of the sixteen states for which we can credibly estimate poverty rates for both Hindus and Muslims, the poverty rate for the latter has dropped below the corresponding rate for the former.  Nationally, the poverty rate among Muslims in rural areas is now within one percent of the rate for the Hindus.  The gap remains nearly ten percentage points, however, in urban areas.  The paper also suggests how the variation in poverty rates across groups could be used to develop criteria for the identification of the poor for purposes of targeting in social programs. 

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