Extreme Poverty in the World Is About to Hit a Record Low

We're one step closer to eradicating extreme poverty by 2030

Homes in the Metro-Mangueira community, or 'favela', in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 24.

Photographer: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The number of people living in extreme poverty is set to fall to the lowest on record, according to the World Bank.

The proportion of the global population living on less than $1.90 per day will fall to 9.6 percent this year, the Washington-based development bank said in a report released Sunday.

That still leaves about 700 million people who can’t afford the basic goods and services needed to survive. But it’s the first time the rate has dropped below 10 percent, and it’s well below the rate of 37.1 percent in 1990.

The following chart shows the decline in extreme poverty over the last quarter century.

Source: world bank
Source: World Bank

One of the World Bank’s goals is to end extreme poverty by 2030. But reaching that milestone will be difficult, since many of the remaining poor live in fragile states racked by conflict, according to the bank’s chief executive, Jim Yong Kim.

“Much of the low-hanging fruit has been picked,” Kim told reporters on a conference call.

Almost half of the world’s extreme poor live in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the 2015 projection. That's up from about 15 percent in 1990. By contrast, there have been dramatic declines in poverty in East and South Asia over the same period as China and India emerged as economic powers.

“In the areas where there are large numbers of people living in extreme poverty, extreme poverty has deepened and become more embedded,” said Kim.

In addition to the new projection, the World Bank raised its definition of extreme poverty to income of $1.90 per day, from $1.25. The new poverty line adjusts for inflation using 2011 prices that account for purchasing power as a baseline.

(For more economic analysis, see Benchmark.)
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