of people in poverty declined moderately through the 1990s, but
not enough to reduce the absolute number of poor. Household survey
data indicate limited growth in average consumption in rural areas,
reflecting slow growth in agriculture. Urban poverty appears to
have declined twice as fast as rural poverty.
But poverty data in India are subject to considerable uncertainty.
Its private consumption, as measured in the national accounts, grew
about three times faster in the 1990s than household consumption,
as measured by the National Sample Survey. Discrepancies are to
be expected, as the two sources track different aggregates. Moreover,
the survey data tend to understate the consumption of higher-income
households. But the size of this difference and the slowness of
poverty reduction revealed in the survey data are difficult to account
for, particularly given the improvement in human development indicators.
So more accurate data could indicate faster poverty reductions than
our current estimates.