World Poverty at All-Time Lows

While extreme poverty still exists in the world, recent research shows a remarkable reduction in poverty in developing nations.

In fact, in 1990, 37 percent of the world population lived in extreme poverty (defined by the World Bank as living on less than $1.90 per person per day).  Today that number has been reduced to a mere 10 percent.

According to author Gregg Easterbrook, “The decline of developing-world poverty should be viewed as the focal story of the last quarter-century.”

While the Western World isn’t able to directly see the advancements of developing nations, the facts clearly are pointing in an upwards direction.  In the year 2000, the United Nations Member States created a “Millenium Development Goal” of cutting extreme poverty in half by 2015. They were able to achieve that goal five years early.  

The reduction in poverty can be seen most clearly in countries like China, Pakistan, India, and Vietnam.  

What is the main driver behind the falling poverty?   Economic growth. While charitable contributions and government support can help, the internal economic factors of a country have far more to do with falling poverty rates.

In addition to organic economic growth, factors such as education and social safety nets play a large role.  According to Ana Revenga, senior director of the Poverty and Equity Global Practice at the World Bank, “If you move over to Brazil, you see a combination of economic growth with a big expansion of education and a minimum-wage policy that pushed up wages for the least-skilled workers.”

The World Bank also survey’s citizens of countries throughout the world about their satisfaction level with their standard of living.  The answers even surprised the researchers.  Only 20% of people in Cambodia are dissatisfied with their current standard of living. 28% of India and incredibly only 30% of Iraqi citizens feel similar dissatisfaction.  

As we go further and further into an interconnected global economy, the historically strong U.S. economy is bubbling over into less developed nations.  

But there is still much work to do.  The World Bank’s current goal is to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.  In particular, Sub-Saharan Africa still has 900 million people living in extreme poverty.  Surprisingly, social and political instability is a much larger factor for poverty than simply poor economic output.

Much of world poverty is difficult to address, as much of the support coming from wealthier nations is mishandled by political regimes in some of the poorest nations.

In fact, according to globalcitizen.org, nearly one-third of all food produced is lost or wasted each year.  Much of which has to do with war and political conflict.

While eradicating poverty in the world may be a lofty goal, the progress made in the past 25 years is nothing short of miraculous.  

“The economy drives everyone crazy but it keeps functioning,” Easterbrook reminds us.

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