Chris Blattman

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Africans are richer (and getting richer) than you think

Alwyn Young doesn’t buy the GDP and consumption data in Africa (with good reason).

He develops new estimates of poverty in 29 sub-Saharan and 27 other developing countries using DHS surveys–widespread, longstanding health surveys that also happen to record a handful of physical measures of consumption such as car or bike ownership, housing materials, or the birth, death or illness of a child.

The result (now ungated):

…real household consumption in sub-Saharan Africa is growing between 3.4 and 3.7 percent per annum, i.e. three and a half to four times the 0.9 to 1.1 percent reported in international data sources.

I find that the growth of consumption in non sub-Saharan economies is also higher than reported in international sources, but the difference here is much less pronounced, with growth of 3.4 to 3.8 percent, as opposed to the 2.0 to 2.2 percent indicated by international sources.

While international data sources indicate that sub-Saharan Africa is progressing at less than half the rate of other developing countries, the DHS suggest that African growth is easily on par with that being experienced by other economies.

A pity the economic data in DHS and other regular national surveys (Afrobarometer, I mean you) have such piddly economic data.

There’s too little careful nuts and bolts research of this kind going on in development, partly because of the RCT craze. PhD students: follow examples like this one.

(Postscript: The counterpoint paper, claiming asset data biased) h/t @Shanta_WB

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