VOX, 14 July 2014
As China and India continue their fairly rapid paces of economic growth, a greater and greater share of extreme poverty is going to be concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa. But if we’re going to make progress there, we need to have good numbers about how various economies are faring, how income is distributed within them, and so forth.
The trouble, Simon Fraser University economist Morten Jerven argues, is that those numbers are often incomplete at best and downright false at worst. It’s a problem that came into sharp relief recently when Nigeria “rebased” its GDP numbers, doubling its GDP in the process.
Jerven and I spoke on the phone about his book on the topic, Poor Numbers, the extent of the problem, and how to fix it. If you’re interested in learning more, the Center for Global Development’s Amanda Glassman and Alex Ezeh have a great new report on improving data quality. Columbia’s Chris Blattman had a smart post on why it might make sense for African governments to prioritize things other than improved data collection, and Slate’s Josh Keating had a helpful round-up of the debate here.