Working Paper
Producing an Improved Geographic Profile of Poverty

Methodology and Evidence from Three Developing Countries

This paper implements a methodology for estimating poverty in Ecuador, Madagascar and South Africa, at levels of disaggregation that to date have not generally been available. The methodology is based on a statistical procedure to combine household survey data with population census data, imputing into the latter a measure of per capita consumption from the former. The countries are very unlike each other—with different geographies, stages of development, quality and types of data, and so on. Yet the paper demonstrates that in all three countries the poverty estimates produced from census data are both plausible (in that they match well stratum-level estimates calculated directly from the household surveys) and satisfactorily precise (at a level of disaggregation far below that allowed by household surveys). The paper illustrates how the resulting poverty estimates can be represented in maps, thereby conveying much information about the magnitude of poverty across localities, as well as the precision of estimates, in a way which can be readily absorbed by non- technical audiences. The paper finally notes that perceptions as to the importance of geographical dimensions of poverty are themselves a function of the degree of spatial disaggregation of available estimates of poverty. The smaller the localities into which a country can be broken down the more likely one will conclude that geography matters.