Working Paper
Access to Utilities by the Poor

A Global Perspective

This paper presents a global perspective on infrastructure coverage and the poor that many people will think they have seen before but in fact have not. 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. In this paper we introduce a new data source for infrastructure coverage statistics, the World Bank s Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS). The LSMS surveys enable us to examine coverage for several infrastructure services among different income groups in many different countries using household-level data. The results of our analyses show that all income groups throughout the world have much higher levels of coverage for electricity than for other formal infrastructure services (in-house piped water service, sewer service, and private telephone service). As expected, coverage is much higher in urban than in rural areas. The findings confirm that the very poor rarely have these infrastructure services. There are, however, exceptions. The very poor often do have electricity if they live in urban areas. The results also suggest that if the poor have access to services in their communities, many will in fact decide to connect.