Broadening Poverty Definitions in India: Basic needs in Urban Housing

Broadening Poverty Definitions in India: Basic needs in Urban Housing
Tuesday, 25 May 2010 Add to Calendar 2010-05-25 10:15:00 2010-05-25 12:00:00 Asia/Kolkata Broadening Poverty Definitions in India: Basic needs in Urban Housing BROADENING POVERTY DEFINITIONS IN INDIA: BASIC NEEDS IN URBAN HOUSING S.CHANDRASEKHAR Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, India MARK MONTGOMERY Stony Brook University and Population Council, New York, USA In this paper, we ask whether the official poverty definition in India gives sufficient attention to basic needs in urban housing. When the Indian poverty lines were worked into their current form, the procedure that was used was based on a nutritional norm, and it provided some assurance that households living at the poverty line would have the means to consume a minimally adequate level of calories (Government of India, 1979, 1993). But the definition left unresolved whether households officially classified as non-poor would have adequate resources on hand to meet their non-food needs, whether in housing or in other dimensions of need. Among all non-food needs, those in housing present especially vexing problems, because the term “housing” is shorthand for a number of shelter-related characteristics that affect individual and family well-being. In addition to security of tenure, these include the physical condition of the dwelling, whether the household has access to adequate drinking water, sanitation, and drainage, the social and environmental risks presented by any given location, and the access to employment that it provides. Access to improved water and sanitation can help in reducing occurrence of water borne diseases and diseases caused by poor sanitation. If housing needs are to be expressed in monetized form (as basic nutritional needs have been) then the money costs of these bundled characteristics must somehow be estimated. Drawing upon the 58th Round NSSO survey of housing conditions we use a regression based approach to estimate monthly rents. We estimate monthly rent levels for basic-needs housing at Rs 495 per household based on ordinary regression model and Rs 518 using the median regression model. If we translate these figures to per- member equivalents, it works out to Rs 124 per person using the OLS results. In the context of urban poverty line the 1962 expert group (Gadgil et. al.) made the following suggestion: "An element of subsidy in urban housing will have to be included after taking Rs 10 per month, or 10 percent as the rent element payable from the proposed national minimum of Rs 100 per month (1960-61 prices)." We arrive at an amount equivalent to 22–32 percent of the urban poverty line depending on the methodology used. We present our result not as being definitive bu...

BROADENING POVERTY DEFINITIONS IN INDIA: BASIC NEEDS IN URBAN HOUSING S.CHANDRASEKHAR Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, India MARK MONTGOMERY Stony Brook University and Population Council, New York, USA In this paper, we ask whether the official poverty definition in India gives sufficient attention to basic needs in urban housing. When the Indian poverty lines were worked into their current form, the procedure that was used was based on a nutritional norm, and it provided some assurance that households living at the poverty line would have the means to consume a minimally adequate level of calories (Government of India, 1979, 1993). But the definition left unresolved whether households officially classified as non-poor would have adequate resources on hand to meet their non-food needs, whether in housing or in other dimensions of need. Among all non-food needs, those in housing present especially vexing problems, because the term “housing” is shorthand for a number of shelter-related characteristics that affect individual and family well-being. In addition to security of tenure, these include the physical condition of the dwelling, whether the household has access to adequate drinking water, sanitation, and drainage, the social and environmental risks presented by any given location, and the access to employment that it provides. Access to improved water and sanitation can help in reducing occurrence of water borne diseases and diseases caused by poor sanitation. If housing needs are to be expressed in monetized form (as basic nutritional needs have been) then the money costs of these bundled characteristics must somehow be estimated. Drawing upon the 58th Round NSSO survey of housing conditions we use a regression based approach to estimate monthly rents. We estimate monthly rent levels for basic-needs housing at Rs 495 per household based on ordinary regression model and Rs 518 using the median regression model. If we translate these figures to per- member equivalents, it works out to Rs 124 per person using the OLS results. In the context of urban poverty line the 1962 expert group (Gadgil et. al.) made the following suggestion: "An element of subsidy in urban housing will have to be included after taking Rs 10 per month, or 10 percent as the rent element payable from the proposed national minimum of Rs 100 per month (1960-61 prices)." We arrive at an amount equivalent to 22–32 percent of the urban poverty line depending on the methodology used. We present our result not as being definitive but rather as an opening for a broader constructive conversation on the multiple dimensions of poverty in urban India. This is the fourth in a series of Urban Workshops planned by the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), Delhi and Centre for Policy Research (CPR). These workshops will seek to provoke public discussion on issues relating to the development of the city and try to address all its facets including its administration, culture, economy, society, and politics. For further information, please contact: Marie-Hélène Zérah at  zerah@ird.fr or Partha Mukhopadhyay at  partha@cprindia.org