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Research Report

Poverty lines in Greater Cairo: Underestimating and misrepresenting poverty

Sarah Sabry
Copyright Date: May. 1, 2009
Pages: 57
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-1)

    There is a global debate about the poverty line approach, its meaningfulness, validity and reliability. Lately, the approach in general, as well as its application in the urban context, has come under severe criticism. While some scholars propose modifications and updates to improve on the weaknesses (Deaton 2001; Ravallion, Chen et al. 2008), others propose abandoning the approach altogether (Reddy and Pogge 2005) due to a number of fundamental faults which cannot be overcome.

    In Egypt, poverty lines are the most influential measure of poverty. While other measures of human welfare such as the UNDP Human Development Index have been...

  2. (pp. 2-6)

    The importance of how poverty is defined and measured cannot be overstated. This is primarily because it can drive the choice of policies aimed at poverty reduction (Chambers 1995; Wratten 1995; Kanbur and Squire 1999). Measuring the extent of poverty at different times allows for a “poverty comparison” over time or between different places (Ravallion 1992). Thus, the results of measuring poverty can help to assess important issues such as the impact of policy or where to direct resources or focus efforts to reduce poverty. A mere change in definition and approach for measurement has the capacity to define different...

  3. (pp. 7-14)

    To understand what poverty lines tell us about poverty in Greater Cairo, this section begins with a review of the Egyptian poverty line studies. It will then extract from these studies the information about Greater Cairo, discussing some of the complexities involved.

    According to the World Bank’s latest poverty assessment, there is still no official poverty line in Egypt and the Egyptian government does not have a system of monitoring poverty in the country (World Bank and Ministry of Economic Development 2007). Poverty lines are available in a number of studies measuring poverty since the 1990s, by different organizations and...

  4. (pp. 15-20)

    The rest of this paper questions the low poverty incidence rates and the low poverty lines for Greater Cairo. This section discusses the flawed data on which poverty line studies depend. Section 4 questions the actual value of the poverty lines in relation to the costs of living in different informal settlements in Greater Cairo.

    All household surveys depend on CAPMAS data for sampling purposes. The probability of an area being included in the household survey in the HIECS is proportional to its size in the latest census (World Bank and Ministry of Planning 2002). The latest two HIECS surveys...

  5. (pp. 21-34)

    This section examines poverty lines in relation to the costs and conditions of living in Greater Cairo’s ashwa’iyyat. Section 4.1 looks at food and Section 4.2 will examine the non-food allowance factored into poverty lines. The section overall finds that poverty lines fail to factor in the costs of even the most basic needs of life in these areas. Poverty lines are set far too low in relation to the costs and conditions of living.

    Given the number of informal settlements in Egypt, there is great diversity of their histories, housing arrangements, extent of services, physical characteristics, layout, costs of...

  6. (pp. 35-35)

    Poverty is multi-dimensional, and a money-metric measure is a partial measure of poverty. This is well recognized and acknowledged by most authorities, and in most reports. However, despite this recognition, World Bank reports then state that poverty lines offer an “overall scope and distribution of the problem of poverty and thus indicate[s] the direction and magnitude of the work needed to reduce it (World Bank and Ministry of Planning 2002, p.1). Money is taken as a proxy for welfare under the assumption that “with sufficient financial resources, households and individuals in Egypt could conceivably purchase better healthcare and better education...