Working Paper
Reducing Poverty and Inequality in India

Has Liberalization Helped?

This study examines the empirical relationship among inequality, poverty and economic growth in India. Using data on consumption from the 13th to the 53rd Rounds of the National Sample Survey, the author computes, for both rural and urban sectors, the Gini coefficient and three popular measures of poverty. The observed changes in inequality and poverty are explained in terms of the behaviour of key macroeconomic aggregates. A sharp rise in rural and, particularly, urban inequality and only a marginal decline in poverty have characterized the post-reform period. The rise in inequality is explained in terms of an increase in the relative share of output going to capital as compared to labour, a drop in the rate of labour absorption and the rapid growth of the services sector. The rise in inequality has diminished the poverty-reducing effects of higher growth. The reforms have also been characterized by widening regional inequality. This is especially true in the case of the incidence of rural poverty, but also, to a lesser extent, urban poverty. Statistical convergence among states in terms of inequality, poverty and real mean consumption is weak. Several policy conclusions are advanced.