Mapping Poverty in Uttar Pradesh

In an earlier post, we looked at a ‘poverty’ map of the country, where poverty wasn’t based on the official measure but on the proportion of households in each district who didn’t report any ‘census’ assets  – no bicycle, no TV, and not even a mobile phone. Interestingly, that proportion (18%), was in the rough ballpark of the most recent official poverty number of about 22%. And of course, there’s a lot of controversy over the official numbers.

But I thought I would highlight another dimension to the debate about poverty and inequality using the example of tehsil – level census data on Uttar Pradesh. UP is an easy choice – supposedly one of the poorer states, and the largest state in the country.

I say ‘supposedly’ because there’s an odd fact about UP. If you look at our measure of ‘asset’ poverty based on the census data, it’s actually much better off than the national average. In Uttar Pradesh, 11% of households did not have any of the census assets – that’s a whole seven percentage points below the rate for the country as a whole. So in terms of our census-based poverty measure, UP is not poor at all!

Now, of course, you can’t go too far with this. Our census-based measure is a highly restrictive one. It covers only what we might loosely term ‘durable’ goods – TVs, bicycles, phones etc. It doesn’t cover services like healthcare or education for instance, which is a large and growing part of the consumption basket of any household. It doesn’t cover food or essentials.

Just how restrictive this measure is, is apparent when we compare it to a completely different metric. Below, I’ve mapped the proportion of households (tehsil-wise) who don’t have a toilet at home (state average : 64%), and compared that with households who don’t have census assets (11%).

(click or tap on the map to switch between the two sets of data. Hover your mouse over an area to see details of that tehsil. For each area, the lower the percentage, the better off the area is)

The differences are very clear indeed. Eastern UP has traditionally been seen as poorer off than the western parts of the state and that’s quite clear from the ‘no toilets’ measure. But when we use the ‘no assets’ measure, the two regions are actually quite comparable – there’s actually not much difference at all between different parts of the state and ‘inequality’ seems actually quite low. But it’s only a very partial picture of what’s going on. And access to toilets, or lack of such access, is critically important in explaining a range of health parameters.


All data from the 2011 houselisting census.

Map colours from Colorbrewer. Map coloured using the D3 javascript library.


August 24, 2013

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