Drawing on six sweeps of household surveys of Nigeria that together span 1980–2010 with a pooled sample size of about 97,000 households and data on Nigeria’s age-gender-specific life expectancy from the World Health Organization, this paper shows that about 72 percent to 91 percent of Nigeria’s poor are at risk of spending their entire life below the poverty line. To show this, I estimate the duration of poverty spells and link this to the average age of the poor and to the life expectancy. I find that the poor are expected to escape poverty at the age of 85.46 years on average. However, there is heterogeneity in the exit time, with the transient poor averaging 3–7 years below the poverty line and the chronically poor averaging 37 years or more. Given these exit times and life expectancy, the mean age of the poor at their expected time of escaping poverty exceeds the average life expectancy, meaning some of the poor are not guaranteed to escape poverty in their remaining lifetime. The implication is that growth in Nigeria has not been sufficient nor has it demonstrated the potential to help the poor break free from poverty. However, like Brazil, Nigeria can significantly reduce poverty without absolute reliance on economic growth by reducing its high inflation rate and substantially expanding its social security and social assistance transfers.
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