On Extreme Poverty- More or Less Today?


Do you think the world is getting better, or worse, or neither?

How would you have answered if the time frame was the last 70 years, 40 years, or 10 years? I suspect if people were asked if the world is getting better based on how it was 200 years ago, there may have been varying answers.

So - Do you think world poverty rates are getting better, or worse, or neither?

Dr. David E. M
37 months ago

3 answers


I think world poverty rates are getting better, there is more support now. Just these are more visible now, then people could be more aware about the situation in certain countries.

Paolo Beffagnotti
37 months ago
President Johnson declared a war on poverty in 1964 for the USA. How did that work out? - Dr. David E. 36 months ago
I think it worked out somehow, just now we have more visibility on the overal status - Paolo 36 months ago
Agreed - Dr. David E. 36 months ago

Who are those officially classified as poor?

According to IPUMS, an organization associated with the University of Minnesota which integrates worldwide census data, 33% are children under age 18 and 11% are seniors over age 65. So 56% of those living in poverty are of working age, ages 18-65.

Of those who are working age, 21% are disabled, 15% are caregivers, 13% are students, and 10% are early retirees or unclassified, which leaves 41% available to work full time. This is 24% of all people who are in poverty, or about 9.8 million people.

Of that 9.8 million, 65% work part time, 25% work full time, and 10% don’t work. This means just under one million of the 40.6 million people in poverty are actually able to work but unemployed.

Something I found interesting was that of the 65% who work part time, two-thirds (4.3 million) choose to do so and only one-third (2.1 million) would like to work full time. If we add the one million who are unemployed and the 2.1 million part time workers who want full time employment, we have 3.1 million people in poverty who would like to work full time, but can’t find work. This is just 7.4% of all people considered to be below the poverty level.

That leads me to wonder what might change if the 4.3 million choosing to work part time actually worked full time. Might a significant portion of them pull themselves and their families out of poverty? Is it possible that many of these people choose to live in poverty? Or might some of them choose to work part time because earning more would be countered by factors like higher child care costs or losses in government benefits? While I don’t have any statistics on this, I have a hunch it is both.

Dr. David E. M
37 months ago

I don't see how the original question, "Do you think the world is getting better, worse or neither?" resolves to or equates with the final question "So - do you think world poverty rates are getting better, worse or neither?" I don't think that poverty rates are the only indicator of whether the world is getting better or worse. That's simply not a good systems view. An option was not offered in the first question; I would answer it "Both." That is, "None of the above, it is getting both better and worse." Clearly, extreme poverty rates have fallen dramatically over 200 years, especially the last few decades. But, the gap between richer and poorer continues to grow, so RELATIVE poverty remains quite high. The latest stat I saw today is that the 26 richest people in the world own as much as the bottom 50%. That's astounding and, I think, not sustainable. As important, while people continue to do better economically, our collective future well being is beyond serious risk. Every major socio-ecological system is under stress and on the verge of collapse: climate, biodiversity, oceans, agriculture, forests, social cohesion, immigration, and on and on. The 2018 global economy was about $135 trillion PPP. The growth rates required to lift the remaining 1 billion or so people out of extreme poverty will also result in 3 to 5 billion new voracious consumers. It will also result in a world economy that is > $300 trillion PPP. Do we really think we can continue along our current trajectory? Without a massive, massive change in production-consumption patterns, I doubt we'll make it to the promised land.. The likely scenarios were documented a long time ago and nothing has really changed. The pending systems collapse resulting from a laser focus on economic development is likely to halve the human population in a few decades. Body disposal is an interesting future opportunity. So, the conundrum!. Yes, the world is getting better and a whole lot less people are living in extreme poverty. But, it is also getting much worse. The world is in a world of hurt and destined for some really, really bad times if we don't change our fundamental approach to well-being.

Dan O'Neill
36 months ago
SOME GOOD POINTS BUT FAILED LOGIC : So - if I win $1-M in the Lottto - I should still feel bad because my neighbor won $10-M? - Dr. David E. 36 months ago
That's the most minor point in my answer. The broader issue is the production-consumption system is simply not likely to produce the growth required on a global basis to satisfy everyone's wants and needs without catastrophic results. All of which are in progress as we speak. - Dan 36 months ago
It's also not a very interesting response. The Lotto is pretty irrelevant. We're talking about several billion people moving out of extreme poverty to live on $2, $3, $4 per day or whatever, while 26 people own half the wealth of the world. Such conditions have previously led to things like guillotine's and what not. I don't think the current trajectory will hold. - Dan 36 months ago
OK then; Reductio ad absurdum - Dr. David E. 36 months ago

Have some input?