This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Trying to Get a Handle on Poverty in India

Poverty in India often gets overlooked in the West, where the emphasis tends to be on rising middle class in that country. Because of its size and continued population growth (India adds more people each day to the planet than any other country), it is possible to have both a rising middle class and a rising number of people below the poverty level. On February 23rd, the Population Reference Bureau is going to (or will have, depending upon when you are reading this) host an online web discussion about "What Does 'Poverty' Really Mean in India?" It will be hosted by PRB's senior demographer, Carl Haub. Here is the setup for the discussion:
The past few years have seen much hype regarding the economic progress in India, much of it extolling the country's "rising incomes" and "exploding" middle class. Entrepreneurs in the country seem to have believed this, resulting in an overbuilding of glitzy malls and the rapid expansion of the number of domestic airlines. Although there has been definite economic progress in India, who exactly benefits?
The number of people living in poverty is often ignored. India's official poverty measure has long been this: People below the poverty line have a daily diet of less than 2,400 kilocalories in rural areas and less than 2,100 kilocalories in urban areas.
What do measures of wealth such as "middle class" and "poverty" mean in India, compared to countries such as the United States or those in Europe? Estimates of the number of people in poverty in the country vary wildly, as Carl Haub wrote in a 2010 PRB web article with co-author O.P. Sharma, and even the slightest changes in the definition of poverty can change the number of the poor in India by millions. India is on track to become the world's largest country about 10 years from now, despite declining fertility. How will it manage the population growth in its very large and very poor states?
While this discussion is taking place, I'll be on a plane to New York City to attend the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers, but those of us who miss it in real time can pick it up later on the PRB website.

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