It is theoretically ambiguous whether growth of cities matters more to the rural poor than growth of towns. This paper empirically examines whether growth of India's secondary towns or big cities mattered more to recent rural poverty reduction, noting that data deficiencies have made this a difficult question to answer previously.

This paper provides an overview of poverty and well-being trends in India since the mid-1990s. Poverty reduction since 2005 has been much faster than the earlier decade, as a result of broad-based growth across most geographic areas. Underlying this is a pattern of high mobility in economic status that has led to an emerging middle class.

This paper uses panel data to analyze factors that contributed to the rapid decline in poverty in India between 2005 and 2012. The analysis employs a nonparametric decomposition method that measures the relative contributions of different components of household livelihoods to observed changes in poverty.

Longstanding development issues are revisited in the light of a newly-constructed data set of poverty measures for India spanning 60 years, including 20 years since reforms began in earnest in 1991. The study finds a downward trend in poverty measures since 1970, with an acceleration post-1991, despite rising inequality.

India’s 2005 National Rural Employment Guarantee Act creates a justiciable 'right to work' by promising up to 100 days of wage employment per year to all rural households whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. Work is provided in public works projects at the stipulated minimum wage. 

An analysis of the National Sample Survey data for 2009-10 confirms expectations that poorer states of India have more demand for work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. However, we find considerable unmet demand for work on the scheme in all states, and more so in the poorest ones, where the scheme is needed most. Nonetheless, the scheme is reaching the rural poor and backward classes and is attracting poor women into the workforce.

This paper examines the performance thus far of MGNREGS in meeting the demand for work across states. It focuses in the scheme‘s ability to reach India‘s rural poor and other identity-based groups, notably backward castes, tribes and takes a closer look at women‘s participation and how this is influenced by the
rationing of work under MGNREGS.