China-India poverty: a matter of record

India's poverty and inclusive growth record is much better than China's, and levels of poverty in the two countries are not very different

This article attempts to document the record on poverty reduction in both China and India. That China has grown substantially faster than India is a matter of record and great pride for China. That the welfare of the poor in China has also improved at a much faster rate than India is also conventional wisdom as articulated by various scholars at international institutions like the UN, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, etc, and these findings have been supported and endorsed by Nobel laureates like Amartya Sen, for example, in "Why India Trails China" (New York Times, June 19).

There are several household surveys of consumption in India, and such surveys are led by the official National Sample Survey (NSS) conducted every few years. These data are publicly available. Unfortunately, while everyone applauds China's GDP growth rate, no one, with the possible exception of the World Bank, has access to household unit-level data. In other words, we have to take the official government view on household income and consumption growth, etc. Given the very large transparent accumulation of foreign reserves of more than $ 3.5 trillion, there is little doubt that GDP level, and GDP growth, in China is extraordinarily high. The story of how much trickle-down there has been in China is documented below.

There was an important non-government household survey conducted jointly by Texas A&M University, US, and the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu, China, in 2011. The survey results were widely reported in the international press in December 2012. One of the results was that the Gini index of income inequality in China was a high 0.61, much higher than government-reported results of a Gini of 0.48. Unlike official Chinese household data, the explicit stated policy of the survey organisers was that researchers worldwide could access these data. Somewhat strangely, repeated applications to the website have not met with success. The results for China reported below are obtained from the World Bank website,

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