Should extreme poverty in poor countries be the only measure of global poverty?

A previous blog post revisited the issue of global poverty and argued that a multidimensional approach to poverty yields much higher estimates relative to prevailing ones released by the World Bank. Even if one did not take account of a multidimensional poverty index, the current international poverty line of US$ 1.90 a day is simply too penurious to capture the incidence of poverty even in middle income countries. Indeed, global poverty – as Lant Pritchett has so eloquently  argued – is a misnomer if the World Bank criterion, embedded in the recently expired MDGs framework and likely to persist under the current SDGs, is used.[1] While it might yield reasonable estimates for Swaziland, poverty under this standard would be non-existent in Switzerland. Why should one discount the existence of poor people in rich countries while focusing only on extreme poverty in poor countries? Why set the bar so low and ‘define development down’ as Lant Pritchett and Charles Kenny have argued?[2] Global poverty should take account of all the poor in all countries, which suggests a poverty line that is a reasonable approximation of an OECD standard. Using this capacious approach, there are around 5 billion poor people in the world at large or approximately 68 per cent of the global population – and not the 700 million that recent estimates from the World Bank suggests. Tackling global poverty is indeed a monumental task.






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