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The eye of the beholder. Reconsidering the notions of pro‐poor growth and progressivity, with an application to Vietnam

Guido Erreygers () and Thi Kim Thanh Bui

Review of Development Economics, 2019, vol. 23, issue 2, 922-939

Abstract: Both policymakers and economists have tried to find criteria to assess whether economic growth is pro‐poor. In this paper we reconsider the inequality‐oriented approach originally proposed by Jenkins and Van Kerm. They look at the changes in the whole income distribution, and decompose the change in income inequality, measured by the Gini coefficient, into a progressivity and a reranking component. They define a pro‐poor (or progressive) change as one where the changes in income are more to the benefit of those who are initially poor than to the benefit of those who are initially rich. We challenge this assumption, and maintain that also the point of view of the finally poor and the finally rich should be taken into account when evaluating whether growth is pro‐poor. We suggest a new decomposition method, based on an inequality index of the generalized entropy family, which allows the change in income inequality to be decomposed exactly into a forward‐looking and a backward‐looking progressivity component. Our empirical illustration, using data from household surveys in Vietnam, shows that economic growth in Vietnam has been pro‐poor from a forward‐looking perspective, but not from a backward‐looking perspective.

Date: 2019
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