A new interactive guide created by the Brookings Institution provides a fantastic visual guide to the progress that has been made in combating extreme poverty around the world over the past 20 years, as well as projected future declines in poverty.
The guide is a companion to a newly published report about how to end extreme poverty by 2030 that examines the factors that will determine whether this goal will be achieved.
The report examines how this goal can be achieved in practice, finding that both increased consumption in general and improvements in the distribution of consumption are necessary for extreme global poverty to reach less than 3% by 2030.
The share of the population in the developing world living in extreme poverty, which is defined as living on less than $1.25 per day, has decreased by half since 1990, making the goal of extreme poverty eradication by 2030 seem extremely attainable.
However, in order for this goal to be achieved, hundreds of millions of more people will need to cross the $1.25 per day threshold to escape extreme poverty. It is becoming increasingly difficult for poor countries to sustain the same rates of poverty reduction as has been achieved over the past 20 years, so this will certainly be challenging for many countries all around the world.
One key factor in determining whether the goal is met is related to equitable economic growth. Although the economies of many of the world’s poorest countries have been experiencing growth, whether the benefits of this growth have been experienced by the poorest populations in those countries remains a question of debate. Over the past 20 years, although tremendous progress has been made in terms of poverty reduction, the report finds that poverty could have been reduced even further if the benefits of economic growth had been equitably distributed to the poorest populations.
Therefore, a very important way to ensure that poverty reduction continues to be sustained is to ensure that the poor are given better access to the benefits of the economic growth being experienced in their countries.
The report specifically examines the poverty reduction trajectories of the areas in the world with the greatest poor populations: China, India and Sub-Saharan Africa. China has had tremendous success reducing poverty, with over 600 million people crossing the extreme poverty threshold over the past 20 years. It is estimated that this figure will continue to decrease by approximately 50 million people over the next 20 years.
India has also experienced significant success, reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty by approximately 100 million people, although there are still over 300 million Indians living in extreme poverty, roughly equivalent to the entire population of the United States. However, the vast majority of these people are living very close to the poverty line, meaning that India has the potential to bring a vast number of people across that threshold. Indeed, the report estimates that the number of people living in extreme poverty in India can be reduced to around 40 million by 2030.
The greatest challenge will be in Sub-Saharan Africa, which has historically struggled with poverty. There are hundreds of millions of people living well below the poverty line in Sub-Saharan Africa and at no point in the report’s estimations does this number decrease dramatically. These findings show that, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, economic growth and increases in consumption alone are not sufficient to help people rise out of poverty. Over the next decades, it will be important for aid to continue to be provided to help change these circumstances.
These findings are emphasized by the report’s final conclusions with regard to the diminishing returns of poverty reduction efforts. As huge players like China and India continue to make great progress in poverty reduction, the world’s poorest people will increasingly be concentrated in some of the world’s most fragile or unstable states. Right now, one-third of the world’s poor live in fragile states, but this will increase to one-half by 2030.
This means that poverty reduction efforts will become much more challenging because of the political nature of the countries in which it will primarily be concentrated. For poverty in fragile countries to be eliminated, isolated populations need to be included in national economies, and the poorest populations need to be targeted more efficiently. Finally, the international community needs to step in and help put fragile countries on a path to stability.
The findings of this report on how to end extreme poverty by 2030 are very clear. Although a tremendous amount of progress has been made in the global fight against extreme poverty, much of it directly attributable to economic growth and increases in consumption, economic growth alone is not capable of ridding the world of extreme poverty by 2030. This is because the benefits of economic growth are often distributed inequitably and it is difficult for economic benefits to reach vulnerable and isolated populations in countries that are affected by conflict or other adverse political conditions. This is why it is extremely important for foreign aid to continue to be a key player in the fight against poverty.
– Caroline Poterio Martinez
Source: Brookings Institution
Photo: Huffington Post