1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, review on the UNRISD Poverty series volume "Growth, Inequality and Social Development in India: Is Inclusive Growth Possible?", edited by R. Nagaraj

9 Sep 2013



A wit (I forget who) once explained the contrasting economic fortunes of India and East Asia
by the fact that former unlike the latter had lots of very good economists. I wonder if there
are any parallels with the study of poverty? India has wonderful data. India has wonderful
scholars studying poverty and its correlates. India is a competitive democracy where most of
the voters are poor. But the more we know about poverty the more stubborn and intractable
the poverty problem in India seems to be.

I picked up my copy of Growth, Inequality and Social Development with an initial sensation
of jaded inevitability. Our host (the editor) would probably pen an introduction and write a
chapter on employment and jobless growth (a long-standing research interest of Nagaraj).
Angus Deaton and Jean Dreze would produce estimates from adjusted the official poverty
figures and find that yes indeed poverty had been declining since 1991. Perhaps Utsa Patnaik
would challenge this and argue poverty was much higher than commonly realised because
average calorie consumption had been trending down for most income groups. Somebody
else, probably Martin Ravallion, would have written a chapter estimating the poverty elasticity
numbers for growth and find them lower in India than other developing countries or lower
in Bihar than in Kerala. Perhaps then a few more specific case studies, that would inevitably
conclude, women, low castes and rural areas have higher poverty than the rest. A rather
glittering line up of scholars would conclude that not all of India is shining. It would be clever,
authoritative, and distinguished scholarship. I would add the book to a reading list for students
next year as a key text but I would come away with that jaded anticipation having become
jaded familiarity. But. My eyebrows raised slightly in surprise. The scholars in this book I
know most, Chibber, Kohli and Nagaraj are more familiar as writers on industrial policy and
economic growth. Others such as Shah (Member of the Planning Commission) or Shankar
(water) or Sen (health) have much broader research interests than just poverty. I began reading
more intrigued than jaded.

To view the book review, please click here.