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The Decline of Extreme Poverty in Perspective

The Decline of Extreme Poverty in Perspective

The Decline of Extreme Poverty in Perspective

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

If you follow the news, the world can seem pretty grim at times.

This pessimistic view of global affairs is common. We’ve been trained by the media to believe that things are always getting worse – and not surprisingly, people extrapolate these perceptions onto issues like poverty.

One survey in the U.K. is the perfect barometer for this kind of public pessimism: in 2016 an Oxfam poll found that 87% of people thought that global poverty was staying the same or getting worse. However, the reality couldn’t be further from those perceptions.

Poverty in Perspective

The World Bank announced this week that extreme poverty is at its lowest rate in 28 years.

The current estimate is that 8.6% of the global population now lives in extreme poverty, using a measure based on a $1.90 per day wage (in 2011 PPP). The figure is adjusted using the cost of living and inflation, and it also takes into account the minimum needed for daily essentials in places where poverty is prevalent.

For comparison, in 1990, more than 1.9 billion people (36% of global population) lived below the extreme poverty line. That means more than one billion people have come out of poverty since then.

Recent Data

The preceding context is powerful, but where are we today in the fight against extreme poverty?

According to the World Bank’s latest comprehensive numbers that were just released for 2015, here is the latest data by region:

RegionPeople in poverty (2015)% of world total
World Total735.9 million100.0%
East Asia and Pacific47.2 million6.4%
Europe and Central Asia7.1 million1.0%
Latin America and Caribbean25.9 million3.5%
Middle East and North Africa18.6 million2.5%
South Asia216.4 million29.4%
Sub-Saharan Africa413.3 million56.2%

As you can see, just over 85% of the population in extreme poverty is living in the Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia regions. It’s worth noting that both of these regions are also rapidly growing in terms of population, as well.

Finally, here’s a look at recent progress during the period of 2013-2015:

RegionPoverty rate (2013)Poverty rate (2015)Change
World Total11.2%10.0%-1.2%
East Asia and Pacific3.6%2.3%-1.3%
Europe and Central Asia1.6%1.5%-0.1%
Latin America and Caribbean4.6%4.1%-0.5%
Middle East and North Africa2.6%5.0%+2.4%
South Asia16.2%12.4%-3.8%
Sub-Saharan Africa42.5%41.1%-1.4%

The one anomaly above (Middle East and North Africa) is a result of wars in Syria and Yemen – however, as you can see, the region did previously hit a low under 3%.

Overall, as the data shows, there has been progress in the fight against extreme poverty in both the long and short terms. That said, experts do warn that the rate of poverty reduction is slowing in more recent years, which will make the trend harder to keep intact.

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