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Individuals do escape poverty during periods of overall rise in the poverty rate; they also transit into poverty during periods of overall decline in the poverty rate. A static poverty estimate drawn from independent cross surveys tends to obscure these details because it is unable to provide information on individual poverty experiences across time and space. In this paper, I explore six sweeps of household surveys of Nigeria (1980–2010) in an attempt to address these concerns. In addition, I test, by estimating poverty regressions, whether different processes are at work in determining chronic and transient poverty.
Between 1980 and 1985, about 0.11–9.5 percent of Nigeria’s population escaped poverty. At the same time, 21.94–32.27 percent moved into poverty. Both transient and chronic poverty were higher in 1996–2010 than in 1980–1992. But transient poverty rose faster as the share of chronic poverty declined to between 3-55 percent from about 90 percent. Chronic poverty is less prevalent in Nigeria’s oil producing region and more prevalent in the country’s northeast, and poverty increases with household size. About 81 percent of those trapped in poverty farm, and 81.02 percent are from the north. Years of schooling has the strongest negative impact on chronic poverty; 74 percent of those never trapped in poverty have more than a high school level of education. Stepping up girls’ education can mitigate teenage pregnancies and consequently address population rise among the poor. In addition, increasing investment in human capital, through government spending, can help break the cycle of poverty in the north.