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Data and Inequality

Policymakers need good data to help them make good decisions.

Ravi Kanbur says producing statistics on inequality is never just a technical act; it has political consequences.  Kanbur is a Professor of Economics at Cornell University and delivered the keynote speech at the Fourth IMF Statistical Forum on Statistics for Inclusive Growth.

In this podcast, Kanbur says data doesn’t always reflect reality when it comes to poverty and inequality.

“The statistical office in a country may come out and say poverty has gone down, but the people on the ground say they feel it hasn’t.” Kanbur also says the conventional methods used to collect household data can lead to an underreporting of inequality and poverty of up to 30%.

The interview includes an interesting historical look back at the British collection and use of data during colonial times in India.  The India office would prepare an annual report to the British parliament on economic and moral progress in India.

Fun economist party fact: John Maynard Keynes’ first job out of university was in the statistical office that produced the report.  He never went to India but knew a lot about it because he managed the report’s production in 1906-1907.

Kanbur says it’s quite remarkable that in the last five years a leading voice on the detrimental effect of inequality on growth has been research from the IMF.

Watch the podcast:

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