Summary Report: Ethnic Minority Poverty 2007 – 2012

Authors: Mekong Development Research Institute (MDRI) consultants including Dr. Phung Duc Tung, Dr. Nguyen Viet Cuong, Dr. James Taylor, Msc. Ha Viet Quan, Associate Prof. Le Ngoc Thang, Dr. Dao Huy Khue, Nguyen Cong Thao, and Phung Thi Thanh Thu.

Published: May 2014


Vietnam has achieved remarkable results in poverty reduction during the past 20 years. However, the progress of poverty reduction varies greatly among different ethnic groups. There are 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam; and the Kinh, the ethnic majority, accounts for around 86 percent of the national population. Compared with other ethnic minorities, Kinh people are concentrated in the delta and high population density areas. Ethnic minorities tend to live in mountainous and highland areas. Therefore, ethnic minority households face huge obstacles in access to important resources such as education, capital, markets, and agricultural land (The World Bank, 2009 and 2012). Although ethnic minorities account for around 14 percent of the Vietnamese population, they account for 50 percent of the poorest population (according to the 2010 Vietnam Household Living Standard Survey).

The Government has launched a large number of poverty reduction programs. A large amount of the funds has been spent on assistance programs targeted at the poor and ethnic minorities. Yet, several research studies have shown that economic growth and poverty reduction has not been achieved by a number of ethnic minority groups. Even within a commune, there is a large gap in the mean income as well as the poverty rate between the Kinh and ethnic minorities (Lanjouw et al., 2013). There are numerous studies on ethnic minority poverty. However, most of these studies focused on the analysis of ethnic minority poverty status without identifying and analyzing the typical cases of the most and least successful ethnic minority groups. Such identification and analysis is necessary in order to provide deeper insight and give more appropriate policy recommendations.

This report consolidates the findings of quantitative and qualitative studies conducted to answer the following questions: how have the standards of living of the ethnic minorities changed during the 2007-2012 period? Which group is the most successful in poverty reduction and which is the least successful group during the same period? What are the reasons for the successes and failures of the ethnic minority groups? While the quantitative study identified the most and the least successful groups during the period 2007-2012, the qualitative study supplemented specific answers as to why some groups succeeded more than others. The research findings are expected to serve as input for policy dialogue and recommendations for adjusting current programs and designing upcoming poverty reduction programs and policies for the ethnic minorities.

The main data source used for this report comes from the Baseline Survey and Endline Survey of the Program 135-II. Therefore, this report only covers the ethnic minority groups living in the most difficult communes of the country. Furthermore, the sample size of the two surveys does not allow for the decomposition and analysis of all 54 ethnic groups, but only the decomposition of 10 groups. Therefore, the analysis results do not fully cover small-population ethnic minorities. In addition, the qualitative study only focused on 3 groups (Thai, Mong and Ba Na) in a limited number of communes under Program 135, which weakens the representativeness of the findings for these 3 groups. These are the limitations of this report.

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