The Economist: Now for the good news
Poverty has fallen in all regions of the world
THE past four years have seen an economic crisis coincide with a food-price spike. That must surely have boosted the number of the world’s poor (especially since food inflation hits the poor hardest)—right? Wrong. New estimates of the numbers of the world’s poor by the World Bank’s Development Research Group show that for the first time ever, poverty—defined as the number and share of people living below $1.25 a day (at 2005 prices)—fell in every region of the world in 2005-08. Half the long-term decline is attributable to China, which has taken 660m people out of poverty since the early 1980s. But the main contribution to the recent turnaround is Africa. Its poverty headcount rose at every three-year interval between 1981 and 2005, the only continent where this happened. But in 2008, it fell by 12m, or five percentage points to 47%—the first time less than half of Africans have been below the poverty line. The bank also has partial estimates for 2010. These show global poverty that year was half its 1990 level, implying the long-term rate of poverty reduction—slightly over one percentage point a year—continued unabated in 2008-10, despite the dual crisis.