On the Unequal Inequality of Poor Communities

C.T.M. Elbers, P.F. Lanjouw, J. Mistiaen, B Özler, K.R. Simler

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Communities differ in important ways in their needs, capacities, and circumstances. Because central governments are not able to discern these differences fully, they seek to achieve their policy objectives by relying on decentralized mechanisms that use local information. Household and individual characteristics within communities can also vary substantially. A growing body of theoretical literature suggests that inequality within communities can influence policy outcomes in ways that are either harmful or helpful, depending on the circumstances. Until recently, empirical investigations into the impact of inequality have been held back by a lack of systematic evidence on community-level inequality. This study uses household survey and population census data to estimate per capita consumption inequality within communities in three developing economies. It finds that communities vary markedly in their degree of inequality. It also shows that there should be no presumption that inequality is less severe in poor communities. The kind of community-level inequality estimates generated here can be used in designing and evaluating decentralized antipoverty programs. © The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank 2004; all rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-421
JournalWorld Bank Economic Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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