Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Why Self Rated, Episodic Hunger Goes Up As Poverty Goes Down

It is a contradiction or paradox in the DATA that people would rather deny than try to understand which also puzzled me in my recent, independent analysis of the Social Weather Station published statistics on hunger and poverty in the Philippines.

First, everyone ought to admit that "poverty" as measured by both the National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) and the Social Weather Stations (SWS) has been on a long term downward trend during the last decade or so, a fact that ought to be credited to the US $12 billion annual repatriation of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) directly injected into family incomes, not trickled down, as people still fighting Ronald Reagan insist.

However there is also this data from the SWS on "self-rated hunger" which I have decomposed into what SWS calls "moderate hunger" and "severe hunger". The former refers to the percent of survey head of household respondents who claim to experience hunger "at least once" during the survey quarter -- which is what I call "episodic hunger". Each of the data points at left is actually an average for that year of four such data points. Those in "severe hunger" report not having food to eat most or all the time, what I call "chronic hunger." The hunger statistic that gets reported by SWS and the main stream media is the sum total of the episodic and chronic data points. I have split them out into the two additive components to show that they have behaved quite differently. Chronic hunger appears to change very little over the study period with only a weak downward trend. But episodic hunger is definitely on the upswing, even if self-rated poverty is trending downwards.

I wondered WHY because at first that would seem to be contradictory, paradoxical or otherwise counter-intuitive.

But we find a most plausible explanation of this phenomenon in the recent remarks of Great Britain's Chief Scientific Adviser, Prof. John Beddington, at Westminster:
Beddington said that in the short term, development and increasing wealth would add to the food crisis. "Once you move to [an income of] between £1 a day and £5 a day you get an increase in demand for meat and dairy products ... and that generates a demand for additional grain." Above £5 a day, people begin to demand processed and packaged food, which entails greater energy use. About 2.7bn people in the world live on less than £1 a day.

There would also be increases at the higher end of the wage scale, he said. At present there are 350m households on £8,000 a year. That is projected to increase to 2.1bn by 2030. "It's tremendous good news. You are seeing a genuine prediction from the World Bank that poverty alleviation is actually working."
I think this also exposes the real problem with "self-rated hunger" statistics being collected by the SWS and which usually end up as lurid headlines. The statistic on "moderate hunger" is not measuring the same thing as "chronic hunger" at all, but is actually tracking the effect of gradually improving incomes, which is that they are demanding more and better food!

Then of course there is the role that BIOFUELS are playing to exacerbate the ongoing crisis in the price of food globally. I hope Migz Zubiri is paying attention to this because his plan to help out the Sugar Barons by feeding the cars instead of the people is really backfiring badly. Biofuels--which properly should be called AGROFUELS--are not the panacea they've been portrayed to be. Not only do they take away from food production, they also are not even "carbon neutral" as previously claimed. Both the US and EU have foolishly bought into some snake oil here and they better pull back from the brink before it's too late. In 2007, the 35-40% spike in global food prices has been attributed to fossil fuel at near $100 a barrel, bad weather, and the fact that 14% of the entire US corn crop (40% of global production) bwas converted to ethanol under a program passed by the US Congress and signed by President Bush in 2006. Similar programs in the EU are being criticized for the same reason. The Philippines has even less reason to get on the biofuels bandwagon, given the truly limited land area available to agricultural food production anyway.


blackshama said...

Rainfall shift, watershed degradation, rising population growth, biofuels,and island geography are major factors why we have this problem.

As I have argued in,Karl Marx must have the second to the last laugh!

The problem we have is the interaction of Malthusian prediction and Marxist prediction.

This should wake up the Roman Catholic Church, the CPP-NDF, and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

These parties are obviously incapable of scientifically cofronting the problem.

The CPP-NDF is ideologically fossilized and can't see the environmental implications of Marxism. (of course it is unscientific!)

The Catholic Church is in denial of the empirical basis of Malthusian theory (of course it is unscientific!)

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is a neoliberal economist. The paradigms of neoliberalism do not account for the scientific fact that the planet's resources are limited! Her policies on resource extraction will make the problem worse.

Jego said...

Then there's that other "paradox":

"Is the Earth stillwarming?"

She replied: "No, actually, there has been cooling, if you take 1998 as your point of reference. If you take 2002 as your point of reference, then temperatures have plateaued. This is certainly not what you'd expect if carbon dioxide is driving temperature because carbon dioxide levels have been increasing but temperatures have actually been coming down over the last 10 years."

You dont reduce emissions and frivolous consumption because of global warming. That is a wrong-headed reason. What if it isnt true? You dont get people to be more environment-conscious by lying to them or feeding them science-fantasy. You reduce emissions and frivolous consumption because the planet's resources are limited and you care about the future generations.

stuart-santiago said...

sa totoo lang, djb, my eyes glaze over whenever you get into poverty-is -going-down mode. because it's not going down, it's going up, along with population. ofw remittances only give a semblance of growth that's not sustainable.

DJB Rizalist said...

what's your proof angela? is it intuition? is it a feeling? I know it's honest, but what is it you must ask yourself and tell us.

Lookit, not even Mahar actually denies it. he just plays it down, and concentrates on the variations going up and down.

population is growing but surely you don't believe people are starving to death. somehow they get jobs, earn a living, support their families, etc.

Things can certainly be better, but shall we just ignore the facts, then?

cvj said...

DJB, average family income as captured by the FIES has been declining since 1997.

DJB Rizalist said...

i don't see that in the poverty data. also we have to be careful about averages, as they are sensitive to family size. if family size goes down, it is very deceptive to infer that a lower average is necesarily indicative of lower quality of life.

cvj said...

DJB, the data can be found here:

Year 1997 t0 2000

Year 2000 to 2003

Year 2003 to 2006

(The 2006 data is at current prices so you would need to deflate by multiplying by 0.82 to get 2003 prices)

From the above, you'll see that average income per family has steadily been going down across all deciles.

I've also checked the number of persons per family by dividing the population over the number of families (as per FIES) for those years and i found that they are at 5 persons per family (ranging from 4.95 to 5.05).

DJB Rizalist said...

I shall look at that data and promise to post on it in future.

In the meantime have a look at some background from Heritage foundation:

cvj said...

DJB, thanks for the pointer, will read the link.