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Material wealth in 3D: Mapping multiple paths to prosperity in low- and middle-income countries

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Material wealth is a key factor shaping human development and well-being. Every year, hundreds of studies in social science and policy fields assess material wealth in low- and middle-income countries

Material wealth is a key factor shaping human development and well-being. Every year, hundreds of studies in social science and policy fields assess material wealth in low- and middle-income countries assuming that there is a single dimension by which households can move from poverty to prosperity. However, a one-dimensional model may miss important kinds of prosperity, particularly in countries where traditional subsistence-based livelihoods coexist with modern cash economies. Using multiple correspondence analysis to analyze representative household data from six countries—Nepal, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Guatemala—across three world regions, we identify a number of independent dimension of wealth, each with a clear link to locally relevant pathways to success in cash and agricultural economies. In all cases, the first dimension identified by this approach replicates standard one-dimensional estimates and captures success in cash economies. The novel dimensions we identify reflect success in different agricultural sectors and are independently associated with key benchmarks of food security and human growth, such as adult body mass index and child height. The multidimensional models of wealth we describe here provide new opportunities for examining the causes and consequences of wealth inequality that go beyond success in cash economies, for tracing the emergence of hybrid pathways to prosperity, and for assessing how these different pathways to economic success carry different health risks and social opportunities.

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Date Created
  • 2017-09-08

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Genetic Population Structure Accounts for Contemporary Ecogeographic Patterns in Tropic and Subtropic-Dwelling Humans

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Contemporary human populations conform to ecogeographic predictions that animals will become more compact in cooler climates and less compact in warmer ones. However, it remains unclear to what extent this

Contemporary human populations conform to ecogeographic predictions that animals will become more compact in cooler climates and less compact in warmer ones. However, it remains unclear to what extent this pattern reflects plastic responses to current environments or genetic differences among populations. Analyzing anthropometric surveys of 232,684 children and adults from across 80 ethnolinguistic groups in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Americas, we confirm that body surface-to-volume correlates with contemporary temperature at magnitudes found in more latitudinally diverse samples (Adj. R[superscript 2] = 0.14-0.28). However, far more variation in body surface-to-volume is attributable to genetic population structure (Adj. R[superscript 2] = 0.50-0.74). Moreover, genetic population structure accounts for nearly all of the observed relationship between contemporary temperature and body surface-to-volume among children and adults. Indeed, after controlling for population structure, contemporary temperature accounts for no more than 4% of the variance in body form in these groups. This effect of genetic affinity on body form is also independent of other ecological variables, such as dominant mode of subsistence and household wealth per capita. These findings suggest that the observed fit of human body surface-to-volume with current climate in this sample reflects relatively large effects of existing genetic population structure of contemporary humans compared to plastic response to current environments.

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Date Created
  • 2015-03-27

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Estimating the absolute wealth of households

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Objective To estimate the absolute wealth of households using data from demographic and health surveys. Methods We developed a new metric, the absolute wealth estimate, based on the rank of

Objective To estimate the absolute wealth of households using data from demographic and health surveys. Methods We developed a new metric, the absolute wealth estimate, based on the rank of each surveyed household according to its material assets and the assumed shape of the distribution of wealth among surveyed households. Using data from 156 demographic and health surveys in 66 countries, we calculated absolute wealth estimates for households. We validated the method by comparing the proportion of households defined as poor using our estimates with published World Bank poverty headcounts. We also compared the accuracy of absolute versus relative wealth estimates for the prediction of anthropometric measures. Findings The median absolute wealth estimates of 1 403 186 households were 2056 international dollars per capita (interquartile range: 723-6103). The proportion of poor households based on absolute wealth estimates were strongly correlated with World Bank estimates of populations living on less than 2.00 United States dollars per capita per day (R-2=0.84). Absolute wealth estimates were better predictors of anthropometric measures than relative wealth indexes. Conclusion Absolute wealth estimates provide new opportuhities for comparative research to assess the effects of economic resources on health and human capital, as well as the long-term health consequences of economic change and inequality.

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Date Created
  • 2015-07-01