Poverty and Equity Global Practice of the World Bank
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Fields of Specialization
Welfare economics, Labor economics, Inequality, Poverty and social impact, Impact evaluation and economic shocks, Policy and program evaluation
Poverty and Equity Global Practice of the World Bank
Externally Hosted Work
Last updated August 29, 2023
Ambar Narayan, a Lead Economist in the Poverty and Equity Global Practice of the World Bank, leads and advises teams conducting policy analysis and research in development from a microeconomic perspective. Topics that he works on include inequality of opportunity, economic mobility, policy evaluation, economic transformation, country diagnostics, and impacts of economic shocks on households. Currently, he provides leadership to teams engaged in analyzing the distributional impacts of markets, institutions and private sector participation, and the inequality implications of COVID-19 for developing countries. Ambar has been a lead author for several large World Bank studies, including a recent global report on intergenerational mobility titled “Fair Progress?” as well as reports on inequality of opportunity, poverty, and the impacts of financial crisis in developing countries. In the past, he has worked in the South Asia region of the World Bank on knowledge and lending programs. He has authored a number of scholarly publications and working papers, which reflect the eclectic mix of topics he has worked on over the years. He holds a PhD in Economics from Brown University in the United States.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 10 of 13
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2013-10) Narayan, Ambar ; Saavedra-Chanduvi, Jaime ; Tiwari, SaileshFocusing on the welfare of the less well off as a measure of real societal progress is the fundamental principle underlying the WBG indicator of "shared prosperity", namely income growth of the bottom 40 percent in every country. This paper uses a database assembled by the World Bank Group to investigate some basic characteristics of shared prosperity, particularly its relationship with overall economic growth and inequality. Initial estimates using this dataset of 79 countries show that median income growth of the bottom 40 percent (circa 2005-2010) was 4.2 percent, a high number in comparison to the 3.1 percent per capita income growth of the overall population. In addition, the low and lower-middle income countries appear to be trailing the upper middle and high income countries in boosting shared prosperity. Establishing conceptual links between income growth of the bottom 40 percent, the overall growth rate and reviewing existing evidence on how these relate to inequality, the paper discusses two main ideas. First, shared prosperity is strongly correlated with overall prosperity implying that the whole host of policies that are important to generate and sustain growth remain relevant. Second, boosting shared prosperity will also require a concerted effort to strengthen the social contract, particularly in the area of promoting equality of opportunity. Growing evidence suggests that improving access for all and reducing inequality of opportunities -- particularly those related to human capital development of children -- are not only about "fairness" and building a "just society", but also about realizing a society's aspirations of economic prosperity.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2010-02) Kotikula, Aphichoke ; Narayan, Ambar ; Zaman, HassanThe poor in Bangladesh are more likely to belong to households with a larger number of dependents and lower education among household members, be engaged in daily wage labor, own little land, and be less likely to receive remittances. This poverty profile for 2005 is similar to the profile in the mid-1980s and hence at first glance it would appear that little has changed over time. A closer look at national household survey data suggests a more nuanced story. This paper uses the latest two rounds of the Bangladesh Household Income and Expenditure Survey to decompose the micro-determinants of poverty reduction between 2000 and 2005, closely following a similar analysis using five earlier rounds of the Survey. The comparison of results shows that the spatial distribution of poverty seen in earlier decades has changed with time and the drivers of poverty reduction are different in several respects.
Publication(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2015) Dabalen, Andrew ; Narayan, Ambar ; Saavedra-Chanduvi, Jaime ; Suarez, Alejandro Hoyos ; Abras, Ana ; Tiwari, SaileshThis study explores the changing opportunities for children in Africa. While the definition of opportunities can be subjective and depend on the societal context, this report focuses on efforts to build future human capital, directly (through education and health investments) and indirectly (through complementary infrastructure such as safe water, adequate sanitation, electricity, and so on). It follows the practice of earlier studies conducted for the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region (Barros et al. 2009, 2012) where opportunities are basic goods and services that constitute investments in children. Although several opportunities are relevant at different stages of an individual s life, our focus on children s access to education, health services, safe water, and adequate nutrition is due to the well-known fact that an individual s chance of success in life is deeply influenced by access to these goods and services early in life. Children s access to these basic services improves the likelihood of a child being able to maximize his/her human potential and pursue a life of dignity.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-06) Tiwari, Sailesh ; Lara Ibarra, Gabriel ; Narayan, AmbarThis paper attempts to determine the extent to which inequality in wage earnings in the Russian Federation is unfair. Unlike other similar attempts that can, at best, produce a lower bound on the estimate of the share of inequality that is unfair, this paper exploits the longitudinal nature of the data to come up with a lower bound as well as an upper bound. The upper bound is further refined to take into account the indirect effect of circumstances at birth (gender, parental wealth, etc.) on effort. Results show that the upper bound on the inequality of opportunity may be three to four times the measured lower bound and significantly higher for females than males in the sample. Finally, comparison with the United States and Germany show that although total inequality is lower in Russia, the share of unfair inequality is distinctly larger. The markedly large explanatory role of extraneous factors, such as gender and parental characteristics, in wage inequality calls for a close examination of governments’ efforts to address inequities in the labor market.
Outcomes, Opportunity and Development : Why Unequal Opportunities and Not Outcomes Hinder Economic Development(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2013-12) Molina, Ezequiel ; Narayan, Ambar ; Saavedra-Chanduvi, JaimeThis paper studies the relationship between inequality of opportunity and development outcomes in a cross-country setting. Scholars have long debated the impact of inequality on growth, development, and the quality of institutions in a society. The empirical relationships are however confounded by the notion that "inequality" can be seen as a composite of inequality arising from differences in effort and ability, which would tend to encourage competition and productivity, and inequality attributable to unequal opportunities, particularly in terms of access to basic goods and services, which might translate to wasted human potential and lower levels of development. The analysis in this paper applies a measure of educational opportunities that incorporates inequality between "types" or circumstance groups. Theories from economic history are used to instrument for this type of inequality in a large cross-country dataset. The results seem to confirm the hypothesis that this measure of inequality of opportunity is a better fit for structural inequality than the Gini index of income. The results suggest that inequality of endowments at the outset of history led to unequal educational opportunities, which in turn affected development outcomes such as institutional quality, infant mortality, and economic growth. The findings are robust to several checks on the instrumental variable specification.
Publication(World Bank Group, Washington, DC, 2015-01) Balcazar, Carlos Felipe ; Narayan, Ambar ; Tiwari, SaileshThis paper assesses inequality of opportunity in educational achievement using the Human Opportunity Index methodology on data from the Programme for International Student Assessment. The findings suggest that there are large inequalities in learning outcomes as measured by demonstrated proficiency in Programme for International Student Assessment test scores in math, reading, and science. Differences in wealth, parental education, and area of residence explain a bulk of this inequality in most of the countries in the sample. Consistent with what has been documented previously in the literature, the paper also finds a strong and stable correlation between inequality of opportunity and public spending on school education. An exploration of the changes in inequality of opportunity between the 2009 and 2012 rounds of the Programme for International Student Assessment, using parametric and nonparametric techniques, suggests that there has been little progress.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-10) Ferreira, Francisco H. G. ; Chen, Shaohua ; Dabalen, Andrew ; Dikhanov, Yuri ; Hamadeh, Nada ; Jolliffe, Dean ; Narayan, Ambar ; Prydz, Espen Beer ; Revenga, Ana ; Sangraula, Prem ; Serajuddin, Umar ; Yoshida, NobuoThe 2014 release of a new set of purchasing power parity conversion factors (PPPs) for 2011 has prompted a revision of the international poverty line. In order to preserve the integrity of the goalposts for international targets such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the World Bank’s twin goals, the new poverty line was chosen so as to preserve the definition and real purchasing power of the earlier $1.25 line (in 2005 PPPs) in poor countries. Using the new 2011 PPPs, the new line equals $1.90 per person per day. The higher value of the line in US dollars reflects the fact that the new PPPs yield a relatively lower purchasing power of that currency vis-à-vis those of most poor countries. Because the line was designed to preserve real purchasing power in poor countries, the revisions lead to relatively small changes in global poverty incidence: from 14.5 percent in the old method to 14.1 percent in the new method for 2011. In 2012, the new reference year for the global count, we find 12.7 percent of the world’s population, or 897 million people, are living in extreme poverty. There are changes in the regional composition of poverty, but they are also relatively small. This paper documents the detailed methodological decisions taken in the process of updating both the poverty line and the consumption and income distributions at the country level, including issues of inter-temporal and spatial price adjustments. It also describes various caveats, limitations, perils and pitfalls of the approach taken.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-03) Balcazar, Carlos Felipe ; Desai, Sonal ; Murgai, Rinku ; Narayan, AmbarThis paper uses panel data to analyze factors that contributed to the rapid decline in poverty in India between 2005 and 2012. The analysis employs a nonparametric decomposition method that measures the relative contributions of different components of household livelihoods to observed changes in poverty. The results show that poverty decline is associated with a significant increase in labor earnings, explained in turn by a steep rise in wages for unskilled labor, and diversification from farm to nonfarm sources of income in rural areas. Transfers, in the form of remittances and social programs, have contributed but are not the primary drivers of poverty decline over this period. The pattern of changes is consistent with processes associated with structural transformation, which add up to a highly pro-poor pattern of income growth over the initial distribution of income and consumption. However, certain social groups (Adivasis and Dalits) are found to be more likely to stay in or fall into poverty and less likely to move out of poverty. And even as poverty has reduced dramatically, the share of vulnerable population has not.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-04) Narayan, Ambar ; Murgai, RinkuThis paper provides an overview of poverty and well-being trends in India since the mid-1990s. Poverty reduction since 2005 has been much faster than the earlier decade, as a result of broad-based growth across most geographic areas. Underlying this is a pattern of high mobility in economic status that has led to an emerging middle class. Still, a vast (and rising) share of the population faces significant risk of slipping back into poverty. India's poor are increasingly concentrated in low-income states with historically lower rates of economic progress. Even as India has reduced poverty faster than the developing world as a whole, the degree of poverty reduction associated with growth has been substantially lower than in some of its middle-income peers. India faces important challenges in nonmonetary dimensions of welfare as well. Despite success on important fronts, such as infant and child mortality and secondary education, progress has been slow in others, such as sanitation and nutrition, and lags behind some other countries that are at a similar stage of development.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-04) Abras, Ana ; Cuesta, Jose ; Hoyos, Alejandro ; Narayan, AmbarThis study analyzes opportunities for children in Cote d'Ivoire, where opportunities refer to access to basic services and goods that improve the likelihood of a child maximizing his or her human potential. The principle that guides this analysis is one of equality of opportunity, which is that a child's circumstances at birth should not determine his or her access to opportunities. The analysis computes the Human Opportunity Index, which measures the extent to which access to basic services is universal and evenly distributed among children of different circumstances. Opportunities are limited in Cote d'Ivoire, despite some improvements in access to electricity and timely access to primary education. Otherwise, trends on access remain stagnant. Scale effects (variations across the board) are behind these trends, with little improvement observed from equalizing interventions. Circumstances such as region and household head characteristics affect a child's access to opportunities, while household incomes and a child's gender and ethnicity play a relatively small role in access differentials. Public spending on education opportunities is shown to be regressive and pro-rich, especially when analyzed across the distribution of circumstances rather than acroos income level.The groups of children that are particularly behind in terms of educational opportunities are those whose household heads lack primary education and reside in rural areas. Closing the enrollment gap of these children should be a priority for targeted educational interventions. However, improving opportunities may require more than a single type of intervention: opportunities with low coverage may need to be scaled up, while those with large inequalities of access may require equalizing interventions.