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Poor Areas, or Only Poor People?

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Anti-poverty programs often target poor areas even when there is seemingly free migration. Should such programs focus instead on households with personal attributes that foster poverty, no matter where they live? Possibly not; there may be “hidden” constraints on mobility, or location may reveal otherwise hidden household attributes. Using survey data for Bangladesh we find significant and sizable geographic effects on living standards after controlling for a wide range of nongeographic characteristics of households, as would typically be observable to policy makers. The geographic structure of living standards is reasonably stable over time, consistent with observed migration patterns, and robust to testable sources of bias.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: World Bank, Washington, DC

Publication date: November 1, 1999


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