Working Paper
Decomposing Spatial Differences in Poverty in India

Over the last decade, India has been one of the fastest growing economies, and has experienced considerable decline in overall income poverty. However, in a vast country like India, poverty levels vary significantly across the different states. In this paper, we analyze the differences between poverty at the state and national level, separately for the rural and urban sector, in the year 1999-2000. Instead of following the usual practice of decomposing the changes in poverty over time, we decompose the changes in poverty across regions. Such decomposition reveals that differences in state and national poverty levels were largely explained by differences in the state and national mean income levels. Differences in the state and national distributions of income were less important in explaining spatial differences in poverty. An important policy implication of our results is that states with extremely high levels of poverty would have reduced poverty significantly by raising their mean income levels to the national mean income, instead of changing their distribution of income to match the national income distribution.