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Cities can do city statistics

/ 05:06 AM October 19, 2019

The Philippine Statistics Authority’s new poverty report (https://psa.gov.ph/ poverty-press-releases/nid/138411) is based on the first stage of the 2018 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES), which took a gigantic sample of 180,000 households, to provide estimates for provinces and some cities and city clusters.

The first stage was done in July 2018, and covered 2018S1 (semester 1). The second was in January 2019, to cover 2018S2, and will be reported later this year. The FIES is triennial, so its next reference year is 2021, for reporting in 2022.

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The PSA report of 2018S1 says that poverty among households was 16.1 percent nationwide, and 4.9 percent in the National Capital Region (NCR) in particular. Compared to 2015S1, the PSA says that poverty fell nationwide (from 22.2 percent), but rose in NCR (from 4.6 percent). Are the NCR mayors conscious, I wonder, that their region was an exception from the favorable national trend?

The PSA’s report divides NCR into four districts: (1) in Manila, the percentage of poor households rose from 4.8 to 5.7; (2) in Mandaluyong, Marikina, Pasig, Quezon City and San Juan, it fell from 3.9 to 3.5; (3) in Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela, it rose from 6.5 to 8.1; and (4) in Las Piñas, Makati, Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Pasay, Pateros (a municipality) and Taguig, it rose from 3.8 to 3.9. Are the mayors of District 2 conscious, I wonder, that their district was the NCR exception that conformed to the favorable national trend?

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The PSA report uses exactly the same poverty threshold per family, P11,752 per month, for every district in NCR. Thus, the variation in poverty is due entirely to variation in income, rather than variation in the cost of living. Would the 17 mayors of NCR agree that their cost of living is the same? Were they consulted about this statistical practice?

The PSA report starts with the same poverty threshold per person, P14,102 for the semester, for every district in NCR. Dividing this number by 6 months in a semester, and multiplying it by a rule-of-thumb 5 persons per family, is the apparent source of the magic threshold of P11,752 per month per family in every district.

However, the average household in the Philippines has only 4.4 persons, not 5.0, as of 2015, according to the PSA itself. Furthermore, the average NCR household has only 4.1 persons, not 4.4. The average household size is not the same throughout NCR; it ranges from 3.8 in Makati and Pasay to 4.6 in Marikina (https://psa.gov.ph/content/highlights-household-population-number-households-and-average-household-size-philippines).

Aside from the cities in NCR, the PSA report has poverty estimates for another 19 cities elsewhere in the country. In every case, the PSA uses exactly the same poverty threshold for the city as for the province in which it is embedded. Examples: The PSA monthly family threshold is P9,776 for both Tacloban and Leyte; it is P9,865 for both Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental. Were the mayors of Tacloban and Cagayan de Oro, as well as the governors of their respective provinces, consulted?

But isn’t the overall cost of living usually higher in urban than in rural areas? Using a provincial average of consumer prices to set a common poverty line for both areas will tend to understate urban poverty and overstate rural poverty.

The questionable numbers cited above are due to the tendency of the PSA, a national agency, to issue statistics for local areas with little, if any, participation of local governments and local research institutions.

I think that cities, in particular, have both the resources and the scientific talent to produce meaningful, high-quality statistics about the well-being of their constituents.

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TAGS: 2018 Family Income and Expenditure Survey, city statistics, Philippine Statistics Authority
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