Geography of poverty

Posted in economics, politics by jrahman on September 26, 2011

As the economy has grown steadily over the past decades, Bangladesh has recorded some success in reducing poverty. 

And yet, far too much poverty remains. 

Which parts of Bangladesh are the most poverty stricken, and why?

Updating Poverty Maps of Bangladesh, a joint publication

by the World Bank, World Food Programme and Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics,

attempts to answer the question.

The key finding is presented in the map.  Three regions mark the highest

prevalence of poverty:

– regions on the banks of Jamuna-Teesta-Brahmaputra in greater Rangpur and


– coastal regions of greater Khulna and Barisal division; and

– regions bordering Myanmar in the southeast of the country.

The report stresses that ‘where poverty is’ and ‘where the poor are’ aren’t the same.  For example, even though Dhaka has proportionately far less poor, because of the large number of people living in Dhaka, it ends up having a lot more poor people than Bandarban of the coastal areas of the Sundarbans.  The upazillas of greater Rangpur are notable for both having high prevalence of poverty and the number of poor. 

The report has maps that try to explain the prevalence of poverty.  Unsurpisingly, areas of high poverty also have lower educational attainment and lower wage levels.  travel time from Dhaka seems to be a strong correlate of prevalence of poverty — this is a very underappreciated point.  Interestingly, natural disasters don’t seem to be a strong explanator –while coastal regions are subject to tidal surges, it’s not clear why Rangpur and Jamuna adjoining areas should have more poverty than areas like Faridpur which suffer more severe floods.

 Two points not in the report.  First, apropos an earlier discussion about the economic impact of migration to India: the border regions of North Bengal — whence anecdotally the most emigrants originate, and the regions that see the most BSF shooting — are prone higher poverty than rest of the country.  Second, 15 to 20 seats where Jamaat has consistently polled strongly in the past four elections are all in the regions showing high prevalence of poverty.

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  1. fugstar said, on September 26, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    “it’s not clear why Rangpur and Jamuna adjoining areas should have more poverty than areas like Faridpur which suffer more severe floods.”

    River Erosion. Community Disintegration. Elite depletion. Strategic Social Institutional Retreat. Governmental Abandonment. -> possible district poverty registration.

    • jrahman said, on September 27, 2011 at 7:13 am

      But why are all these more prevalent in Rangpur than Faridpur?

  2. Fugstar said, on September 27, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    i dont know the local context enough. can only speak about three rightbank jamuna districts with any authority. cascading erosion impacts are not the only impoverishing player but they are a strong one with many nonmaterial aspects that should be taken seriously. and differ from regular flood impacts

    A murrabi put it to me like this.

    “When you are robbed, you can go home
    when your house burns down, you can build a new one,
    but when you lose your house to the river, you do not even have the earth beneath your feat”

    Would be nice to see a dynamic visualisation of spatial poverty representation, local gini and the temporal economic impacts of the jamuna bridge and other impacts from stuff like the roads that lged has put in.

    Some astute people have commented that poverty in the border areas is because of cross border smuggling to our loss. I cant see the World Bank and the Bullshit Enterprise Institute sponsoring ‘sound’ knowledge creation in that department.

    the poverty lines in this report, do they account for differential definitions of urban/rural ‘poverty’. and other types of things.

    • jrahman said, on September 29, 2011 at 10:02 am

      Would be very cool to see ‘a dynamic visualisation of spatial poverty representation’ indeed. I understand, but can’t confirm, that the poverty lines account for urban/rural differential price levels / purchasing powers / expenditure baskets etc.

      Not sure if I believe the ‘cross border smuggling causes our loss’ thesis. For one thing, most of the India-to-Bangladesh smuggling is food products, with the ultimate market being Dhaka and other cities. How does that contribute to poverty in North Bengal border regions? And why not eastern border areas of Comilla and Noakhali? Secondly, even in North Bengal, it seems that Rangpur is poorer than Rajshahi or Dinajpur. Why?

      This requires serious research (well beyond the capacity of any blogger).

  3. Fugstar said, on September 30, 2011 at 3:43 am

    i dont know, but its like the flaw in the putnam analysis of italy when he failed to see that the north was screwing with the south, because it didnt come through the depoliticised stats.

    i wonder what the district by district relation is along the border, from the sundarbans to chittagong. do you think deshis will do more boundary research now that the fence is going up?

    • jrahman said, on October 2, 2011 at 10:46 am

      I don’t think any social science discipline has the monopoly on the truth. I definitely hope Deshis tackle these issues from as many different perspective as possible.

  4. A bad argument about inequality « Mukti said, on December 10, 2012 at 9:27 am

    […] idea that Dhaka and Chittagong divisions are richer than Rajshahi and Barisal is consistent with other work I’ve seen.  The persistence of geographical differences in income levels in a culturally homogenous, […]

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