Argentina turns out to be a poorer country than we realized.
Argentina, like the United States, measure the poverty line against a basket of goods. The rate of absolute poverty is measured against the monthly cost of a minimum amount of food; the regular poverty rate is assessed against a broader basket which includes a bare amount of housing, energy and manufactured goods. According to the official agencies, in 2011 the monthly food basket cost ₱205 per person while the broader basket cost ₱449.
The Universidad Católica Argentina (UCA) used unofficial sources to revalue the official baskets. They found that the food basket cost ₱351 and the broader one ₱720.
As you might imagine, the mismeasurement of inflation has significant effects on the poverty figures. (The data is at the above link.) According to the Argentine statistical agency, absolute povery (“indigence”) afflicted 1.7% of the population in 2011, while 6.5% suffered regular poverty. The UCA conducted its own survery of urban areas, using the official poverty lines, and found slightly different numbers: a few more in poverty (7.8%), a few less in indigence (1.5%).
But when they used the actual cost of the basket, the numbers leaped: 21.9% in poverty and 3.3% in indigence, meaning that one in thirty urban Argentines did not earn enough to avoid malnutrition. (The survery did not include rural populations, so it is unlikely that the indigent had access to much non-market food.)
Let me be clear: the poorest Argentines are much better off than they were under the old regime. In 1998, right before the country began its grinding depression, almost a third of urban Argentines were poor and almost a tenth lived in households that did not earn enough to pay for their caloric needs. Even with the revised numbers, the situation has improved markedly.
But two things stand out. First, Argentina did not avoid the Great Recession. Well-being degenerated markedly in 2008 and 2009.
Second, the Argentine government probably played games with the indigence statistics in 2008 and 2009 (but not thereafter): the official numbers and the survey numbers diverge rather dramatically in those years, even without the inflation adjustment.
In a way, the numbers make the games the government has played with the statistics even more incomprehensible. The Kirchners have a great record on poverty: this is not the Bolivarian Republic. The uptick in 2008-09 is entirely understandable, given the Great Recession ... and I very much doubt that the families thrown into poverty were unaware of it.
Given that, what is the point of the obfuscation?