Three essays on monetary and non-monetary dimensions of poverty in Vietnam
The consequences of poverty are always a major concern for governments in developing countries. Along with the rapid expansion of the economy, Vietnam's achievements in poverty reduction and improvements in social indicators have been remarkable by any criteria. During the last few decades, the multidimensional nature and dynamics of poverty have received increasing attention from scholars and policy makers since this provides more essential information about specific elements of poverty, which is useful for the implementation of poverty-alleviation interventions. However, the notion of multidimensional poverty is rarely explored when assessing the situation in Vietnam. Therefore, the aim of this study is to provide insights from multidimensional poverty in Vietnam through three empirical papers using two high-quality datasets: the Vietnam Household Living Standard Survey (VHLSS) and the Vietnam Access to Resources Household Survey (VARHS). Our research uses the fuzzy set approach to measure poverty in different dimensions and multilevel models to estimate the effects of various characteristics on poverty in Vietnam at household, province, and regional levels. The first essay uses the VHLSS data from 2014 to investigate seven dimensions of poverty in Vietnam (income, health, education, housing, assets, basic services and economic status). It shows that the current unidimensional method used by the Government of Vietnam neither fully describes the multidimensional nature of poverty nor does it accurately identify impoverished target regions in Vietnam. Our empirical results prove that in Vietnam there are many regions, such as the Midlands and Northern Mountains and the region of Mekong Delta, in which people are better off in the income dimension of poverty but are worse off in some non-income dimensions, and this clearly shows a need for special policy attention. These empirical findings can help Vietnamese policy makers determine suitable strategies to effectively target the most deprived regions and to develop more appropriate poverty-alleviation programs. Utilising three-wave panel data from VHLSS (2010, 2012, and 2014), the second essay is the first attempt to examine the dynamics of poverty and vulnerability to poverty across seven income and non-income dimensions for households at the regional and national levels. It is observed that while the proportion of the chronically poor in any poverty dimension is quite small, in the housing dimension it is the highest; at least nearly double that in the other dimensions. We further identify vulnerability as a probability for becoming poor using standard deviation as a measure of risk and estimate vulnerability to poverty from the stochastic variation of expected deprivation within a defined interval. In most regions and dimensions, while more multidimensionally poor households are vulnerable to idiosyncratic shocks than to covariate shocks, the proportion of households who are vulnerable to covariate shocks in the housing dimension is significantly higher than for that in the other dimensions. Our results suggest that to formulate more effective anti-poverty programs, policy makers need to take into consideration vulnerability to poverty in the near future for households in both monetary non-monetary dimensions. The third essay is the first attempt in providing insights not only to the magnitude of the gap across levels of poverty but also the evolution of horizontal deprivation over time in multidimensions in rural Vietnam. Using the five-wave panel data of the Vietnam Access to Resources Household Survey (VARHS) 2008-2016, this study further explores the role of social capital on ethnic minorities and non-minorities in six dimensions of poverty (monetary, education, health, housing, basic services, and durable assets). We observe improvements in most non-monetary dimensions of poverty, while it is in the monetary dimension that the highest degrees of deprivation and the lowest rate of reduction during the studied period are shown. The health dimension is the only dimension in which the minority households not only are better off than those of majority households but also report improvement in during the studied period. Our study reports the significant effects of social capital at both household and community levels on the poverty of households. Social capital at the community level reduces poverty in the monetary, education, housing, and basic services dimension for ethnic minorities. The findings indicate that policy makers ought to take into account the roles of social capital in poverty alleviation in the country. In summary, the overall implication of this PhD study is that because of the complex characteristics of poverty in Vietnam, the current income-based targeting of poverty-alleviation programs has been ineffective from the wider perspective of meeting the sustainable development goals.