Though Laos is an extremely poor country with 46.1 percent living below the material poverty line in 1993, the country does not have the gross economic inequalities typical of many developing countries. Rural farmers generally have their own land and are engaged in subsistence agriculture which provides for certain basic needs. Major problems for the rural poor are access to quality health care and education.
There are also serious regional income disparities primarily between urban centers and remote rural areas, often mountainous areas with a large proportion of ethnic nationalities. An average person in the richest province, Vientiane, has approximately 2 and a half times more income than the average individual in the poorest province, Huaphanh. The incidence of poverty in rural areas (53 percent) is double that of urban areas (24 percent). The areas most economically disadvantaged tend to be those more remote areas inhabited by diverse ethnic communities.