The determinants of urban and rural poverty in Tunisia

The determinants of urban and rural poverty in Tunisia

Identifying some of the causes of household poverty in Tunisia

This paper explores a range of policy concerns relating to the determinants of poverty in Tunisia on the basis of the household budget survey carried out in 1990 by the Institute of National statistics. Objectives of the paper are to identify some of the key contributory causes of poverty in Tunisia among urban and rural at the household level.


  • in both urban and rural areas the main factors which discriminate against poverty include head's education, child dependency ratio, ratio of male and female employees in the household, socio-professional category of the head, family residence, type of lodging, the share of food budget designed to cereal products and regional dummies. The results show that an increase in the food budget designed to cereal products increase the likelihood of poverty, while more education by the head and a greater ratio of male and female employees in the household and an increase of infant in the secondary education reduce the likelihood of poverty. The human capital as well as the participation of woman in the labour market constitute so many chances that can reduce the intensity of poverty within the household. Concerning the proportion of active males and females, we note that the differences in the weights associated to these variables are more pronounced in the rural area where the principal source of income for the active males is the agricultural salaried work
  • the relative difference of the poverty determinants between urban and rural households was also examined. In rural area we note that, according to the socio-professional category of the head of the household, the head being unemployed or an agricultural worker increase the likelihood of poverty. Indeed, the salaried agricultural work constitutes a precarious source of income, tacking into account the seasonal character of the agricultural activities which are strongly associated with the rain conditions. The finding that employment in agriculture increases the likelihood of poverty in rural area shows a continuing need for an effort to develop irrigated crop agriculture in Tunisia. Further, the results indicate that the economic disadvantages of female headship is mainly an urban phenomenon, where female headed household is significantly associated with a higher likelihood of poverty
  • probability of poverty has been computed under different scenarios of family composition, Education of the head, head's employment condition, female headship, round of the survey, regions and other determinant factors. A major finding is the strong correlation between the intensity of poverty and the cereal expenses of households. The result indicates that food subsidies concerning cereal products, and basically hard wheat products, have valuable implications within the context of poverty alleviation
  • the results underline equally the fact that poverty is multifaceted and several prolonged approaches are needed. Fewer children reduces the probability of being poor, but the reductions are generally much less than from increasing education. Hence, the necessity of engaging a programme of fight against the phenomenon of illiteracy constitutes one of the priorities that have to be considered by the public decision makers in a poverty alleviation scheme in Tunisia. On the other hand, trends toward smaller families should help future poverty levels and may also be allowed by the indirect effect of education (basically for women) on poverty that would be through the impact on the child dependency ratio
  • the results do not indicate a positive correlation between demographic ageing and the incidence of poverty. One of the main reasons behind such unexpected conclusion appears to be the fact that the aged are a heterogeneous group. Finally, female headship is found to be associated with higher probability of poverty in urban area while this result is not confirmed in the rural area. Effective policies must begin with the recognition that FHHs constitute also a heterogeneous group of households and the empirical studies concerning the association of FHH and poverty must take these differences into account

[Adapted from the author]