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The poor quality of official socio-economic statistics relating to the rural tropical world: with special reference to South India.
MODERN ASIAN STUDIES. 1984; 18(3):491-514.Statistics relating to the sizes of farm-holdings, the output and yield of crops, household income and expenditure, occupation, cattle ownership, and the sizes of villages were considered, and some features of the Karnataka population census were criticized. The main reason for the extremely poor quality of so many official socioeconomic statistics relating to the rural tropical world is the failure to realize that statistical procedures are based on conditions peculiar to advanced countries. The All-India National Sample Survey is a rare example of a wasted exercise which runs into several hundred separate reports. Because of the inevitable unreliability of most statistics it should be assumed that all statistics covering whole countries or large states, which relate to agricultural yields, crop values, and production, are bound to include a large element of estimation. Organizations like the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) should provide some information on the basis of estimates, and statistical tables without notes should not be published, such as the regular Statistical Bulletins of the FAO. Far fewer figures of far higher quality should be produced. Owing to the diversity of agrarian systems, very few economic generalizations (any presumed inverse relationship between crop yield and size of farm-holding) can be of universal application. Organizations like the FAO should advise tropical countries that it is wasteful to collect statistics that are considered conventional in advanced countries because of the nature of their agrarian systems and systems of land tenure. Instead of estimating the proportions of households below poverty levels, economic indicators of living standards, such as agricultural wage rates and determinants of the distribution of household farmland, should be identified.