Guide Poverty, Progress, and Population

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Just a decade decade ago it was only a quarter.


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In absolute numbers this meant the number of people who live on more than 10 dollars per day increased by million in just the last 10 years. This expansion of the global middle class went together with progress in reducing global poverty — no matter what poverty line you want to compare it with, the share of the world population below this poverty line declined.

Global Extreme Poverty - Our World in Data

That is a very low poverty line and focusses on what is happening to the very poorest people on the planet. The deadline for achieving this goal is Can we expect to achieve this?

Progress and Poverty - Book II: Population and Subsistence

All expect some positive development — the number of people in extreme poverty is expected to continue to decline — but all also agree that the world is not on track to end extreme poverty by The chart shows the projection made by the development research team at the World Bank. This projection answers the question of what would happen to extreme poverty trends if the economic growth of the past decade —15 continued until 5 The number of people in extreme poverty will remain at almost million.

This is not because it is not possible to end extreme poverty. In more than half of the countries of the world the share of the population in extreme poverty is now less than 3 percent. In fact, a big success over the last generation was that the world made rapid progress against the very worst poverty.

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The number of people in extreme poverty has fallen from nearly 1. This was possible as economic growth reached more and more parts of the world. But after two decades of growth the share in extreme poverty more than halved in all these countries.

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Poverty was not concentrated in Africa until recently. In more than a billion of the extremely poor lived in China and India alone. Since then those economies have grown faster than many of the richest countries in the world. Now it has shifted to Sub-Saharan Africa. The projections suggest the geographic concentration of extreme poverty is likely to continue. Poverty declined during the last generation because the majority of the poorest people on the planet lived in countries with strong economic growth.

This is now different. Development economists have emphasized this for some time: The very poorest people in the world did not see their material living conditions improve. This is an important reminder that one poverty line is not enough and we need to rely on several poverty lines — higher and lower than the international poverty line — to understand how the world is changing. We miss this if we only follow what is happening to the rapidly emerging global middle class or if we rely on global poverty lines that are not capturing what is happening to the poorest.

The projections suggest that over the coming decade the stagnation at the bottom will become very clear. The war in Syria and a population surge in sub-Saharan Africa have undermined efforts to reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty, the World Bank has said. But the decline was half the rate of previous years and had slowed further, according to preliminary figures that estimated a 1. The agency, which aims to support sustainable development, added to the gloomy picture this year, with figures showing that those lifted out of extreme poverty struggled to make further progress up the income ladder.

Warde on Wrigley, 'Poverty, Progress and Population'

For their sake, we cannot fail. Much of the reduction in global poverty over recent decades has been in China and neighbouring countries that have benefited from its spectacular growth rate. The global average has also benefited from the efforts of South American countries such as Brazil and Chile to lift people out of poverty.

Poverty rates have improved in some east African countries, but much of sub-Saharan Africa has fallen back after a population rise, especially in Nigeria and other west African states.


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In sub-Saharan Africa, the number grew from million people in to million in