ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles by S SubramanianSubscribe to S Subramanian

Au Revoir

In a “Concluding Unscientific Postscript,” a long-time admirer of this journal rues the decline of the role of the public intellectual in upholding standards of consistency, rigour and probity. 


The Quintile Income Statistic, Money-metric Poverty, and Disequalising Growth in India: 1983 to 2011-12

On the record of poverty and growth in India over the last 30 or so years, the general scholarly view seems to be that there have been substantial declines in money-metric poverty and that the growth in per capita consumption expenditure has not been marked by any discernible evidence of non-inclusiveness. It is argued in this paper that inferences of this nature are largely a consequence of the particular approaches to the measurement of poverty and inclusiveness that have been generally adopted in the literature. Alternative, and arguably more plausible, protocols of measurement suggest a picture of money-metric deprivation and growing disparity in India which shares little in common with received wisdom on the subject.

Once More Unto The Breach...

This article is a (less than comprehensive) critique of the World Bank's latest estimates of global poverty and projections thereof. It argues that the Bank's approach to poverty measurement is conceptually flawed, and that the results, in terms of the poverty numbers which it presents, are largely misleading.

Growth and Inequality in the Distribution of India's Consumption Expenditure: 1983 to 2009-10

This paper undertakes an assessment of the evolution of inequality in the distribution of consumption expenditure in India over the last quarter-century, from 1983 to 2009-10, employing data available in the quinquennial "thick" surveys of the National Sample Survey Office. We find that plausible adjustments to the data, along with an emphasis on "centrist" rather than "rightist" or "leftist" inequality measures, lead to a picture of widening over-time inequality in the distribution of consumption expenditure, which is at odds with the impression of more or less unchanging inequality conveyed in some of the literature available on the subject in India.

An Astonishing Tale about Global Poverty

Poverty and Progress: Realities and Myths about Global Poverty by Deepak Lal; New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015; pp xi and 248, Rs 495.

The Poverty Line

This brief note is a critique of (solely) the money-metric poverty identifi cation procedure recommended by the Rangarajan Committee on measurement of poverty. The contention in this note is that apart from some changes in matters of detail, the analytical basis of the identifi cation methodology proposed in the report displays an essential (and unfortunate) loyalty to the flawed methodology advanced in the reports of its distinguished predecessor committees and expert groups. This is a particular pity, in view of (a) the critiques of extant procedures which are numerously available in the literature; (b) the fundamental importance of the problem of poverty in our society; and (c) the fact of yet another missed opportunity to lend some useful direction to the assessment of money-metric deprivation in India.

On the Inter-Group Inclusiveness of India's Consumption Expenditure Growth

This paper complements an earlier one by the same authors ("On the Interpersonal Inclusiveness of India's Consumption Expenditure Growth", EPW, 10 November 2012) on the interpersonal inclusiveness of consumption expenditure growth in India. Covering six data points in the 27-year period from 1983 to 2009-10 (respectively, five data points in the 22-year period from 1987-88 to 2009-10), the present essay reviews evidence on the inter-caste (respectively, inter-occupation) inclusiveness of consumption expenditure growth in the country. The population groupings considered are simple binary classifications on the basis of caste and of occupation. "Inclusiveness" is assessed in terms of the conformity (or its absence) of the actual group-wise distributions of the fruits of growth with normatively specified "egalitarian" allocations across groups. As with interpersonal inclusiveness, the record of inter-group inclusiveness also turns out to be disappointingly deficient.

On the Interpersonal Inclusiveness of India's Consumption Expenditure Growth

This paper reviews the evidence on the interpersonal inclusiveness of the growth in consumption expenditure that has occurred in India over the last four decades or so. The notion of dynamic inclusiveness is framed in terms of imagined normative allocations of the inter-temporal product of growth, as dictated by notions of equity of varying orders of demandingness. There are analytical parallels between these exercises and those involved in the study of bankruptcy in "Talmudic estate problems", as well as in the determination of optimal anti-poverty budgetary allocations. Inclusive growth in this paper is assessed with respect to inclusiveness across income classes. The results of the investigation undertaken in the essay suggest distressingly little evidence of interpersonal inclusiveness in India's consumption growth experience.

The Poverty Line: Getting It Wrong Again

There has been an upsurge of public discussion on a number of inter-related issues revolving around official assessments of poverty, the linking of welfare entitlements to poverty status, the reasonableness of officially stipulated money-metric poverty lines, the relative virtues of universalisation and targeting of welfare benefits, and the fiscal sustainability of increased public spending in the cause of poverty redress. The present essay offers a very brief evaluation of the methodology of poverty identification advanced by an Expert Group of the Planning Commission in 1993, and undertakes more elaborately what is essentially a critical assessment of the 2009 Tendulkar Committee's approach to specification of the poverty line.

'Inclusive Development' and the Quintile Income Statistic

The rhetoric of "inclusive development" tends often to be lost in vague generalities, when it is not altogether absent in various processes on the ground or in state policy that claims to be inspired by its demands. This note suggests that in at least one specific and restricted area of application - the intersection of poverty, inequality and growth - it should be possible to capture some elementary aspect of inclusiveness by monitoring trends, set against targets, of the "quintile income" statistic. This statistic, which was proposed in earlier work by Kaushik Basu, is a simple and useful aid to verifying the reach of inclusiveness in a specific dimension of development, a theme that is elaborated on in this note.

Thinking through Justice

The Idea of Justice by Amartya Sen (Allen Lane - an imprint of Penguin Books), 2009; pp xix + 468.


Back to Top