Buenos Aires' iconic Villa 31 slum (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Just over 31 percent of Argentines remain under the poverty line and 5.9 percent are destitute, according to results published by the Universidad Católica Argentina (UCA) using a new methodology that incorporates the results of the 2010 census. In other words, that means 13.5 million Argentines are living in poverty.

As such, the UCA results cannot be immediately compared to the poverty and inequality data that it has recently published. According to the UCA, 32.9 percent of the population was under the poverty line in 2016, up from 29.7 percent in 2015. Although it has started a new series, the UCA nonetheless published information for 2017 using the old series. That resulted in a poverty rate of 28.6 percent and 6.4 percent of people living in destitution.

The UCA figures using the old series match from the official poverty statistics published by the INDEC statistics bureau, which has as its most recent results a poverty rate of 28.6 percent for the first semester of 2017. The INDEC resumed publishing poverty statistics in September 2016 after the sudden cancellation of its reports in 2014 during the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration. President Mauricio Macri has asked that his presidency be judged on the reduction of poverty in the country.

The UCA’s Observatorio de Deuda Social poverty results cited here are based on comparing income levels with the costs of specified baskets of goods considered essential to meet basic needs. The university also studies multidimensional poverty based on effective access to goods and services such as food security, health, education, and housing.

As a result of the new series, the UCA specified that 23 percent of households are under the poverty line and that 4.3 percent of households are considered destitute. Broken down according to age group, 48.4 percent of children aged 0 to 10 are considered poor by the UCA, and a third of people aged 15 to 29 considered under the poverty line. Poverty levels decline to 26.9 percent among adults aged 30 to 59 and those over 60 have a poverty rate of 8.9 percent. Extreme poverty rates max out at 10 percent among children aged 0 to 10 and then decline to 6.6 percent for youths (15 to 29), 4.6 percent for adults (30 to 59) and 1.6 percent for those over 60.

The inequality figures published by the UCA show that the top richest 10 percent of the population controls 32 percent of the total wealth and the 10 percent of the population with the least wealth only control 1.2 percent. In relative terms, that means the wealthiest 10 percent have 18 times more wealth than the bottom decile. That ratio declines to 6.7 percent when comparing the top decile to the bottom 30 percent of the population.

The UCA wrote that when considering data from 2010 to 2017, their analysis suggests “relatively stability in the destitution rate, a systematic increase in the poverty rate from 2011 to 2015, as well as an increase in both indicators between 2015 and 2016. This increase is likely to have primarily taken place in the first half of the year. Then in the last year (2016-2017), there is evidence of a decrease in the poverty rate, although that hasn’t happened with the level of extreme poverty. In that regard, the rates of extreme poverty show a certain degree of continuity throughout the period, indicating the greater difficulty in improvement in the lower extremes of the social structure.”

According to the UCA, the top richest 10 percent have 18 times more wealth than the bottom 10 percent. (Screengrab of UCA report)
According to the UCA, the top richest 10 percent have 18 times more wealth than the bottom 10 percent. (Screengrab of UCA report)

The UCA does note that “in the final phase of the period under review there was an increase, between 2015 and 2016, of the existing levels of inequality, which does not seem to have shown a decrease in the last year, 2016-2017. Both the changes in the distribution of income as well as the changes in the gaps in average income between the deciles at the ends of the scales are behind this trend.” However, the UCA makes sure to stress that the observations do not “make it possible to state that there has been a structural change in the distribution of income in the period under study.”

The UCA’s new series for poverty and inequality will run from 2017 to 2025.