The real experts on poverty are poor people, yet the incidence and trends in poverty are usually measured by the use of official economic indicators assumed by researchers to be relevant. Poor householders themselves distinguish between subsistence and cash income. In a ‘self-assessed poverty’ exercise, poor villagers in rural China specified and weighted key poverty indicators. Eight key indicators describing three basic types of poverty were isolated and used to construct a participatory poverty index (PPI), the components of which provide insights into core causes of poverty. Moreover, the PPI allows direct comparison of the incidence of poverty between villages – differences in social, cultural, and environmental characteristics of each village notwithstanding. As a result, the PPI offers an objective method of conducting poverty monitoring independently of physical and social features. This article provides a brief description of the PPI and the data needed to construct a village-specific PPI.
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