Africa to meet MDGs (updated)

Xavier Sala-i-Martin and Maxim Pinkovskiy today published a working paper today that drops the following bombshell (here’s a free version):

Our main conclusion is that Africa is reducing poverty, and doing it much faster than we thought. The growth from the period 1995-2006, far from benefiting only the elites, has been sufficiently widely spread that both total African inequality and African within-country inequality actually declined over this period. In particular, the speed at which Africa has reduced poverty since 1995 puts it on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty relative to 1990 by 2015 on time or, at worst, a couple of years late. If Congo-Zaire converges to Africa once it is stabilized, the MDG will be achieved by 2012, three years before the target date. These results are qualitatively robust to changes in our methodology, including using different data sources and assumptions for what happens to inequality when inequality data is not available.

Not much reaction yet – but I’m intrigued to see what other economists are going to make of their work…

Update: Xavier Sala-i-Martin has a wonderfully crazy Columbia University website – he likes FC Barcelona, Salvador Dali and Beavis and Butthead.

Update II: These Economist articles from 2004 (one, two) offer useful background. The crux of the matter seems to be that Sala-i-Martin and Pinkovskiy use GDP to measure poverty (working out distribution of income from household surveys) – the World Bank’s figures are derived directly from the surveys themselves.