Global Poverty Worse Than Previously Estimated

August 29, 2008 06:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Revised figures indicate that one in four individuals in the developing world—or 1.4 million people—were living on less than $1.25 a day in 2005.

World Poverty Actually More Widespread

The World Bank says that poverty in the developing world was more widespread over the past 25 years than previously thought, although progress has been made in reducing poverty overall.

The new figures, based on better cost-of-living data, indicate that 400 million more people were living in poverty in 2005, compared to the 2004 estimate of 985 million people.

“This is a pretty grim analysis coming from the World Bank,” said Elizabeth Stuart, senior policy advisor at Oxfam, to The BBC. “The urgency to act has never been greater, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where half the population of the continent lives in extreme poverty, a figure that hasn’t changed for over 25 years.”

Despite the bad news, the number of poor people is down from the estimate of 1.9 billion in 1981, and the organization notes that the developing world is on course in its goal of halving poverty from 1990 levels by 2015. And the BBC reports that taking into account world population growth, the poverty rate has actually decreased over the last 25 years.

Africa was the least successful region in reducing poverty, with the number of poor doubling from 200 million to 380 million in the past 25 years. South Asia had the most poor people with 595 million, mostly in India, and China was the most successful at poverty reduction, with numbers falling from 835 million in 1981 to 207 million in 2005.

U.S. Census Report Shows Poverty Rate Unchanged

The poverty rate in the United States was virtually the same as last year and the number of those without health insurance declined, even though median household income and the child poverty rate rose, according to a new report from the Census Bureau.

Real median household income rose for the third consecutive year to $50,233, or a rise of 1.3 percent between 2006 and 2007. The national poverty rate in 2007 was statistically the same as in 2006 at 12.5 percent, with 37.3 million people in poverty in 2007. The number of uninsured individuals fell to 45.7 million people (15.3 percent) in 2007, compared to 47 million people (15.8 percent) in 2006.

The Washington Post points out that the report does not account for the tumultuous economy this year, which has led to a rise in joblessness.

“You have mixed news here mirroring the mixed news in the economy last year,” said Rebecca Blank, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in the Post. “But I think it is quite reasonable to say 2007 was a peak year. And still, median income is slightly below the 2000 level, poverty is higher and child poverty is way up. You have a cycle here that was very sluggish.”

The Bureau also reported that there were 500,000 more children living in poverty than last year.

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