UN: Poverty went up in Venezuela


So says the United Nations Economic Comission on Latin America (ECLAC, or CEPAL for Spanish speakers). The caveat: they are talking about 2010-2011., and the rise was modest. Still, the findings make a punchy headline.

Full report is here.


  1. Very interesting. Latam as whole as improved overall in equality. Venezuela is leading that effort (lowest GINI). Does the exchange rate has anything to do with that calculation? How is the data gathered?

    Also I am not sure if having such a low GINI with such a high poverty rate is good. It is nice to have equality, but being equally poor sucks.

  2. There are many situations in which the GINI coefficient misrepresents the inequality of poverty in different nations, or even in the same one over time. But looking at Venezuela context specific ones, one of the changes that have taken place in VE that have affected the calculation is that misiones are being considered as income, now, whereas poverty alleviation programs pre chavez were not. This immediately made the poor households report a drastic improvement. Another is that much of the oil money that is disappearing is not being reported as income in any household, yet an important percentage of it is being spent, so it makes the middle class also seem not to be trailing the influx into the richest households while the richest households do not show the rocket boost increase in income.

    • Interesting. So what you are saying is that some of the misiones are considered as if they were direct cash transfers? Like mi casa bien equipada? How about barrio adentro?

      Is that oil money not accounted anywhere?

      • Yes, some of the misiones are being given monetary value and then being considered as if the income of that household had increased by that amount. I don’t know the details, but barrio adentro was one of them.

        As to the oil money, remember that GINI is strictly about income into households. So, oil money, per se, does not enter the calculation until it is reported as income by someone.

          • I don’t have data. I remember some news articles from when chavismo was trying to redefine the way income was defined, worldwide. They claimed that most of the benefits reaching the poor weren’t being counted, so they were upset that the numbers weren’t improving, especially with barrio adentro. INE came out saying they would not change the methodology, but then –presto– the numbers jumped.

    • extorres, there is so much bs concerning statistics, and it so easy to fool the folks….this reminds me of health statistics in the US.You read about the amazing increase in diabetes over the years, but they fail to mention that now people are diagnosed when they have a fasting sugar over 100…. where before it was only diagnosed with a fasting blood sugar of around 200.And the crime statistics?Don’t get me started on that one.In Curacao, almost nothing is reported as a crime, and when I lived in San Juan de los Morros I noticed the same thing.Eliminate the defining of and the reporting of a crime, and you lower the crime rates:)

      For anyone with eyes to see, the poor in Venezuela are not doing well, they are doing worse ,and who gives a hoot about equality? Oh yes, Lukashenko a dictator in Belarus where everyone is equally poor except the Russian mafia.

      The important thing is that the life of the poor and marginalized improve.What good would an extra cell phone or washing machine do them, when their lives are in danger every time they leave the house.

      Priorities, not memes ! I am sick of the false caring for the poor in Venezuela.Time for some real caring for the people.

      • FP,
        I agree that the statistics are full with bs. But one must understand where the bs is coming from. Statistics are a fundamental measuring technique. Having eyes is not enough and one’s eyes can be highly biased or have a reduced sample size.

        Yes, safety is the number one concern. And this government has failed time over time to provide security. Security, education, healthcare (including nutrition) should be at the top of our list, perhaps followed by infrastructure, services, etc.

        But all these things are important, including washing machines. Do the following experiment. Wash by hand yours family’s weekly load and measure how much time it took? How are your knuckles? As vain as it sounds, washing machines have raised human living conditions by quite a bit, as they got rid of a really time consuming, painful job.

        This is a really fun video


      • FP, Just be sure you don’t lose sight of the root of the problem. Blaming mathematical statistics for the BS is like blaming linguistics for lies. Mathematical statistics is quite simply a way of summarizing large data. And there is no debate; it does do just that.

        Here’s an example. In Europe, it is very common for people to round their age to the nearest birthday. In North America, age is rounded down to the nearest past birthday. Right off the bat, any statistics you get by pitting age against any other measurable will give a data bias. It’s not a fault of statistics, though statisticians would be to blame for not taking such factors into account.

        So, we agree that statistics is often misused to misinform, but it’s not because statistics, the field, is BS, just that BSers use statistics often for their BS because they are aware of the ignorance of the subject in the majority of listeners.

      • As to cell phone and washing machines for the poor, you may want to see Hans Rosling explain the extreme value of washing machines to the poor, then reconsider.

        Personally, however, I would think it’s more important to give people the money so that they choose which is the best washing machine for them or even if that’s what they want, instead of just give them one chosen by someone else. I believe people receive invaluable education having to make the choices of spending themselves, while removing secret deals between government and washing machine makers, but that’s another topic.

  3. I’ve always wondered how Venezuela achieved such a low GINI yet still has a relatively high poverty rate. Is it a product of so much capital flight/wealthier professionals getting the hell out? Outright lying on the part of government statisticians? I don’t trust self-reported stats so inequality could be as high as ever.

    • ElJefe, there are several ways in which GINI can report low numbers within a nation of high poverty rate. Wikipedia gives several examples, but if you think about it, you can probably come up with your own. A grosso modo, GINI calculates the percent difference between half the square of the total population income and the average differences in income between pairs of people. The way income is calculated for the total population is the biggest factor because it gets squared, especially in Venezuela’s oil price and barrels per capita.

  4. My undertstanding is that Venezuela historically has been comparable to Colombia and Ecuador (and to an extent Mexico) in terms of poverty rates, regardless of administrations. This would seem to confirm that. Venezuelans are doing fractionally better than Colombians, but Colombia is not one of the largest sources of oil on the planet. Overall the regional trend is positive, but slow.

    • Colombia is catching up to Venezuela on a per capita income basis, and it is more diversified. If oil falls through the floor, Colombia will have a higher per Capita income than Venezuela, which is a major reversal after almost a century in which Venezuela was the wealthier country.

      Since Chavez came to power, per capita purchasing power of Colombia has gone from 65% of that of Venezuela to 75%, and that’s with the explosion in oil income in Venezuela. Given Colombia’s free trade agreement with the US and membership of the pacific partnership, it wouldn’t surprise me if Colombia reached parity in per capita purchasing power after another decade of Chavismo.

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