‘Extreme poverty’ declined by 78% in last forty years

Poverty is a big issue these days, but it depends on what sort of or degree of poverty.

‘Neoliberalism’ is blamed for poverty (and many other things), but it hasn’t been all bad.

Neoliberalism is often used as a dirty word in political discussions in New Zealand, but it has coincided with significant progress on poverty around the world.

In fact, the economic liberalization and globalization that started in the late 1970s and accelerated in the 1980s, has led to a massive and historically unprecedented decline in global poverty.

Let us look at the global picture first. In 1981, the year Ronald Reagan became America’s 40th President, 44.3 percent of the world lived in extreme poverty (i.e., less than $1.90 per person per day). Last year, it was 9.6 percent. That’s a decline of 78 percent. In East Asia, a region of the world that includes China, 80.6 percent of people lived in extreme poverty. Today, 4.1 percent do—a 95 percent reduction. Even in sub-Saharan Africa, a relatively under-performing region, the share of the population living on less than $1.9 per day dropped by 38 percent.

Economic and social changes in the last forty years have certainly seen some adverse effects, but there have also been benefits for many people – billions of people.

We have negligible extreme poverty in New Zealand. There are significant numbers of people who find things economically and socially tough, but political arguments here about poverty tend more towards and get confused with seeking equality.

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80 Comments

  1. artcroft

     /  14th January 2019

    Yeah, but what about all the people who wanted to live in poverty but have been denied the chance by the neo-liberals. Don’t they have rights as well?

    Reply
  2. thespectrum

     /  14th January 2019

    Unfortunately because of world population increases the number living in poverty rose 90%

    Reply
  3. Blazer

     /  14th January 2019

    Let us look at the global picture first. In 1981, the year Ronald Reagan became America’s 40th President, 44.3 percent of the world lived in extreme poverty (i.e., less than $1.90 per person per day). Last year, it was 9.6 percent. That’s a decline of 78 %’

    sounds good EXCEPT the buying power of $1.90 in 1981 is way different than…today.

    Playing games with figures and percentages is a favourite pastime for the neo libs and their sycophants.

    Reply
    • alloytoo

       /  14th January 2019

      Except that the poverty line has shifted over time as it gets adjusted for inflation.

      Used to be $1.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  14th January 2019

        the quote expressly used $1.90 in 1981 ,and did not mention any inflation adjustment.

        The measure used is $1.90 per day.

        Reply
        • Griff.

           /  14th January 2019

          You would lose your economics badge if you did such a comparison without fixing the value of $1.90.
          FWIW.
          $1.90 in 1981 is $5.43 in 2018.
          https://www.dollartimes.com/inflation/inflation.php?amount=1&year=1981

          Reply
        • alloytoo

           /  14th January 2019

          They used the current value when defining the historical poverty line.

          “(i.e., less than $1.90 per person per day)”

          Sloppy reporting doesn’t change the historical value.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  14th January 2019

            This is one of the Cato Institutes PR projects .
            Its not really worth looking at ‘any’ of their data

            Reply
            • alloytoo

               /  14th January 2019

              The poverty line value is determined by the World bank.

            • Duker

               /  14th January 2019

              Yes I looked into their data…it’s mostly a tissue of lies when you look at real numbers.
              2/3 reduction in numbers in poverty in Indonesia in 4 years. 69% to 23%
              Pleesee

    • Corky

       /  14th January 2019

      Or..maybe your arguments become less tenable as the years roll by?

      Reply
    • thespectrum

       /  14th January 2019

      @Blazer. Equally Playing games with figures and percentages is a
      favourite pastime for the right wing rednecks and their henchmen.
      Just change the group name and post the same assertion.
      More childish word games eh Blaze?
      I remember the mad comic in the early ’70’s posting a list of news head lines and leaving spaces for you to add your preferred individual/group or philosophy.
      45 years later nothing has changed
      We’s right them’s wrong. Silly really isn’t it?
      PS The Mad comic of the 70’s was such a cool mag.
      Probably the best social commentary I ever encountered.
      It got thinner and too expensive in the 80’s.

      Reply
    • High Flying Duck

       /  14th January 2019

      I’m pretty sure the data is parity adjusted so the gains are all in relative terms.

      If you want to look past poverty though:

      when it comes to nutrition, life expectancy, infant and child mortality rates, and education, great progress is being made throughout the world. That is especially true of poor countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, absolute improvements in human well-being are taking place, while the quality-of-life gap with the rest of the world is also being narrowed.

      According to the latest data, the share of humanity living on less than $1.90 per person per day, adjusted for purchasing power, shrunk from 42.2 per cent in 1981 to 10.7 percent in 2013 (the last year for which data is available). That’s a reduction of 75 per cent over a comparatively short period of 32 years. According to researchers at the Brookings Institution, “Poverty reduction of this magnitude is unparalleled in history: never before have so many people been lifted out of poverty over such a brief period of time.”

      This fall in extreme poverty is all the more remarkable considering that the world’s population rose by 59 per cent over the same time period. Far from being a problem, as was once believed, this growing population has gone hand in hand with increased prosperity. Specialisation and trade, or globalisation, ensured that an increase in the world’s population translated to an increase in the world’s productivity. As such, real average per capita income also rose by 59 per cent between 1981 and 2013.

      https://humanprogress.org/article.php?p=774

      Reply
      • Pink David

         /  14th January 2019

        More people in the world, better fed than they have ever been, living healthier, longer lives.

        Reply
        • PartisanZ

           /  14th January 2019

          “Healthier, longer lives” requiring ever more resource-depleting and human-exploiting ‘inputs’ to maintain and ‘improve’ …

          Especially considering the so-called “no longer extremely poor peoples'” well-being and ‘prosperity’ is increasingly judged by purely Western standards and measured in purely financial ‘market’ metrics …

          Well-being measured in terms of “what can we make them ‘want’ as well as need” … after possibly, for instance, denying their need for connection to their ancestral lands …

          Never mind the negative physical & mental health effects, the social and cultural costs, the environmental price to pay …

          ‘They’ are no longer “extremely poor” … They’re just poor now …

          $1.90 per day IS a measure of extreme poverty … not a measure of any improvement

          Reply
      • thespectrum

         /  14th January 2019

        “This growing population has gone hand in hand with increased prosperity”.
        Do you have any stats on the relative quality of life for Nigeria’s population
        which has gone from 40 mill in 1960 to 130 million today?

        Reply
        • High Flying Duck

           /  14th January 2019

          Yes. Yes I do. Q of L in Nigeria is improving despite its despotic rulers and horrific abuses. Government corruption obviously holds things back – but there are positive signs nonetheless.

          “What is lost in most discussions about Nigeria today is the strong economic record that it has established over the last decade. In fact, a recent year-long study of the country by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) showed that, over the next 15 years, Nigeria has the potential to become a major global economy.

          With roughly 170 million inhabitants, Nigeria has Africa’s largest population. But it has only recently been acknowledged as having the continent’s largest economy – 26th in the world – following the release of “rebased” data putting GDP at $510 billion last year.

          MGI estimates that, in 2013-2030, Nigeria could expand its economy by more than 6% annually, with its GDP exceeding $1.6 trillion – moving it into the global top 20. Moreover, if Nigeria’s leaders work to ensure that growth is inclusive, an estimated 30 million people could escape poverty.

          The problem is that Nigeria remains subject to outdated assumptions, which are limiting its prospects, especially among foreign companies and investors. For example, many believe that Nigeria is a petro-economy, wholly at the mercy of the world oil market. But the resources sector accounts for only 14% of GDP – meaning that, while oil production remains a critical source of revenue and exports, the Nigerian economy is far more diverse than many assume.

          A related myth is that Nigeria’s economic growth is unstable, with large and unpredictable shifts in performance from year to year. In fact, as Nigeria has diversified its economy and detached public-spending plans from current oil prices (part of a 2004 budget reform), it has become increasingly stable, both economically and fiscally. Indeed, in recent years (2010-13, in “re-based” terms), GDP has grown by a steady 6-7%, owing more to rising productivity than to favourable demographics.

          Finally, there is a general misunderstanding about the Nigerian economy’s evolution. Despite widespread poverty and low (though improving) productivity in almost all industries outside of the resources sector, Nigeria has a rapidly growing consumer class that will play an increasingly important role in driving growth.
          https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2014/07/nigeria-boko-haram-economic-prospects/

          http://www.coolgeography.co.uk/gcsen/EW_Nigeria_Quality_of_Life.php

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  14th January 2019

            And that % of those living in extreme poverty in Indonesia dropped by 2/3 over about 5 yrs -late 90s to early 2000’s

            its a joke to take the numbers seriously .
            Phillipines has zero data – how convenient.

            Reply
          • Duker

             /  14th January 2019

            “recent year-long study of the country by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI)

            stop right there … MGI is paid for by the national governments to say those things.

            Reply
          • Blazer

             /  14th January 2019

            ‘In fact, a recent year-long study of the country by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) showed that, over the next 15 years, Nigeria has the potential to become a major global economy.’

            wow!…they better at forcasting than Treasury…or Madam Mim?

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  14th January 2019

              $30 million to say that…that’s some Nigerian prince

      • Blazer

         /  14th January 2019

        so why stop at 2013?

        6 years ago…!

        ‘ real average per capita income also rose by 59 per cent between 1981 and 2013.
        Totally unreliable average considering the huge expansion of money supply in that period compliments of Q.E and the huge increases in executive salary which distort the average..as well.

        Reply
      • Duker

         /  14th January 2019

        “According to the latest data, the share of humanity living on less than $1.90 per person per day, adjusted for purchasing power, shrunk from 42.2 per cent in 1981 to 10.7 percent in 2013”
        DATA ? what data

        maybe we just look at ONE country to see the data
        Nigeria
        Poverty headcount ratio at $1.90 a day (2011 PPP) (% of population)
        https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.DDAY?locations=NG

        hmmmm 4 data points, 1985 -2009 but the % is at one decimal place accuracy …
        lets call it bullshit.

        shall we try another country- Malaysia one of those asian tigers . Even the 1984 number is 2.9%. and the big drop has very few data points and now – 2015- its officially ZERO. How genuine is that?

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  14th January 2019

          The amount in $ seems a flawed way to look at it.

          Someone in the Amazon jungle or Kalahari desert who is self-sufficient would probably not see themselves as poverty-stricken.

          It needs to take into account the cost of living in different places and it probably counts the people who don’t use money and would bring the amount down.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  14th January 2019

            Its adjusted for purchasing power parity PPP. but that indroduces more fudge factor into it.
            My look at the World bank data indicates anything from 10 years ago is unreliable.
            cant find any number for phillipines ,myanmar.

            when looking at Indonesia, they say the % living in poverty has approx 2/3 from 1998 to 2002 (68% to 23%) over 4 years or so
            In 3 years . its ludicrous.
            I call that bullshit as well.

            Reply
  4. PartisanZ

     /  14th January 2019

    If ‘poor’ people live a relatively satisfying and culturally meaningful life of rural subsistence agriculture which is significantly un-moneyed and therefore can’t be measured in dollar-per-day earnings terms, then suddenly they’re compelled to move to city slums and work in sweatshops for $1.90 per day [average] then purchase the ‘commodified’ food and necessities they previously largely grew and made themselves … and still be ‘poor’ … How is this necessarily an improvement for them?

    What can we truly say about it? The goalposts have been shifted …?

    Reply
    • thespectrum

       /  14th January 2019

      Good point PatiZ

      Reply
      • PartisanZ

         /  14th January 2019

        It’s just exactly like the topic of “Force used in schools” the other day …

        One day there’s no measure or record of use of force … In other words a playing field without goalposts …

        Nex minute there’s a new rule-measurement and force is used 13 times a day … Goalposts have been erected …

        Same deal: When ‘they’ lived on their own land we couldn’t measure their income in dollar terms … Their ‘well-being’ was understood differently … Now we’ve got them renting our slum shacks and slaving in our factories for $1.90 per day [if they’re lucky] we can say we’ve “raised them out of poverty” because we’ve set the goalposts real low …

        Lower than any of them can limbo underneath …

        We shouldn’t be having this conversation in 2019. We should be having a conversation about what everyone’s ‘lifestyle’ would look like if no-one in the world earned more than 10, 50 or 100 times that of anyone else … and, in such a circumstance, what people would actually choose to do with their time …

        Reply
      • Pickled Possum

         /  14th January 2019

        uhummmm its Parti or PartisanZ to you Sir Spectrum

        Reply
        • PartisanZ

           /  14th January 2019

          Is that you darling? In the back bedroom? Have you come home?

          You’re not leaving me after all?

          Reply
    • Pink David

       /  14th January 2019

      Life is so much better living as a peasant….

      When people are offered the choice, they move by the millions in one direction. Revealed preferences are telling.

      Reply
      • PartisanZ

         /  14th January 2019

        And so are manufactured and manipulated compulsive addictions …

        The very one’s we’ve convinced ourselves [and the world] are measures of our ‘prosperity’ …

        Reply
        • Pink David

           /  14th January 2019

          If you wish to go and live the life, you are free to do so. Don’t go pretending that somehow the vast majority of people on the planet seeking a better life is a conspiracy of “manipulated compulsive addictions “.

          Have you spent anytime in a rural, 3rd world country? Have you ever depended on the crop coming in not to starve through the winter? Have you lived without access to modern health care?

          Reply
          • PartisanZ

             /  14th January 2019

            Such an empty Rightie argument Pink David … The provision of those things ABSOLUTELY DID NOT depend on transforming rural agrarianism into urban wage-slavery …

            Reply
            • Pink David

               /  14th January 2019

              “Such an empty Rightie argument Pink David … The provision of those things ABSOLUTELY DID NOT depend on transforming rural agrarianism into urban wage-slavery …”

              I’m heading up to Myanmar later this year. You are welcome to come with me and you can show the people I work with up there what your plan is and all the example of success have been in the past.

            • PartisanZ

               /  14th January 2019

              I hope you’re doing good work up in Myanmar Pink David?

              What is it you do?

              If it’s displacing people from rural, culture-rich agrarian settlements to urban, poverty-stricken wage-slave slums – without considering enriching the already culture-rich agrarianism – then I’d say it was highly questionable work indeed …

              And that’s what I believe most neoliberals are referring to when they talk about “lifting people out of poverty” … synonymous with “forcing people into poverty” …

              The failures of the past may be due in great part to corruption … and what I’ve just described above is yet another example of it …

            • Pink David

               /  14th January 2019

              “What is it you do?”

              Infect people with neo-liberal ideas and give them options to move away from rural, poverty-stricken farm slave slums to places where they can self-determine a future.

              “If it’s displacing people from rural, culture-rich agrarian settlements to urban, poverty-stricken wage-slave slums – without considering enriching the already culture-rich agrarianism – then I’d say it was highly questionable work indeed …”

              Can I suggest you spending time in one of these places would severely challenge your framing of the respective life choices. It’s also rather a colonialist view.

          • PartisanZ

             /  14th January 2019

            Can you talk about the ‘success’ of neoliberalism if you’re not extremely successful and filthy rich yourself?

            Reply
            • Pink David

               /  14th January 2019

              “Can you talk about the ‘success’ of neoliberalism if you’re not extremely successful and filthy rich yourself?”

              Is this just about your own envy?

            • PartisanZ

               /  14th January 2019

              Totally … That’s what all Left-Wing thought has always been about, Right?

              From the Chartists through Marx to Wolin, Zinn, Chomsky and Monbiot … and everyone in-between … all their educated, considered, thoughtful and compassionate writing and teaching … nothing but envy …

            • Pink David

               /  14th January 2019

              “Monbiot ”

              You might be pleased, but that is exactly who I was thinking of reading your posts. His hymns about the happiness of poor people in Ethiopia, yet he has not expressed any actual interest in moving and living the lifestyle. He isn’t nicknamed Moonbat for nothing, even with all the Jaffa cakes he can eat.

            • PartisanZ

               /  14th January 2019

              So … kid … you wanna be a lifesaver huh?

              Yes sir … Yes, I do …

              So, okay … have you drowned yet?

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  14th January 2019

      Where are people compelled to move and earn $1.90 a day?

      Reply
      • PartisanZ

         /  14th January 2019

        Check out the riots in Pakistan’s clothing industry happening right now Miss Kitty …

        Reply
  5. alloytoo

     /  14th January 2019

    Neo-liberalism is the greatest threat facing the world’s poverty merchants.

    For the ever improving impoverished of the world, not so much.

    Reply
    • PartisanZ

       /  14th January 2019

      Depends what you call “improvement” doesn’t it?

      Is a shift from relatively self-sufficient agrarianism to sweat shop slum squalid wage-slavery – because some giant corporation can ‘buy’ the land you’ve occupied for millenia – really an “improvement”?

      Initially it seems like an improvement for us, because those people end up working grueling, cruel long hours to manufacture our cheap consumer goods … and as their wages & conditions ‘improve’ corporate manufacturers move on to the next more impoverished country to find new wage-slaves …

      So perhaps neoliberalism’s real compassion, aside from “trickle down”, is that eventually there won’t be any ‘new’ more-impoverished countries than the last one?

      Rich Westerners might ride the poor’s back for the best part of another century under those circumstances? That’s assuming that the corporatocracy can’t “go back around” to one of the countries they initially vacated which has been significantly impoverished once again?

      But then I think: We’ve outsourced our labour to these global corporations, which means ‘Kiwis’ are missing out on the jobs as well as the business opportunities and investment possibilities in productive industries at home … so we’re effectively worse off too … impoverished in a non-financial sense …

      So … What do we do?

      Geoff Simmons of TOP put it succinctly, “We sell fucken houses to each other!”

      Reply
  6. thespectrum

     /  14th January 2019

    @alloytoo. People who write “Neo-liberalism is the greatest threat
    facing the world’s poverty merchants” are in fact the greatest threat
    facing the world’s poverty stricken.

    Reply
    • alloytoo

       /  14th January 2019

      Actually the Climate change alarmists are the greatest threat, the policies suggested in “possible” mitigation of climate change will in the words of Eddy Grant “keeps a brother in a subjection”

      Reply
      • PartisanZ

         /  14th January 2019

        No, the non-mitigation of climate change keeps a ‘Lodge Brother’ in HIS position of subjugating millions or billions of his brothers and sisters …

        Reply
        • alloytoo

           /  14th January 2019

          Climate Mitigation processes are (even by the admission of their advocates) unlikely to have any material effect on climate change, but will have a devastating effect on mostly emmerging/Developing economies.

          We would be better served redirecting such resources into practical resolutions which will render an immediate benefit to those communities thereby preparing them for climate change when (and if) it has a negative impact.

          Reply
      • thespectrum

         /  14th January 2019

        @alloytoo.Now the black President is
        keeping the brother in subjection.

        How about this poem?

        ” White boss Black boss we’re down
        no escapin this ole slum town
        Aparteid was harsh Black rule is arse
        Black Pres he just the same
        while we all starve Cyril talk climate change.
        Give me hope ‘bow Nation before de morning comes.
        Give me hope’bow nation
        Hope ‘bow nation
        or you hear de sound of drum”

        Reply
  7. Blazer

     /  14th January 2019

    ..brothers and…sisters…

    Reply
    • Pickled Possum

       /  14th January 2019

      Flava Flav and his oversized clocks he dated Brigitte Nielsen. for a tv show. strange!!

      NWA are my fav tho that’s Niggers with Attitude 1st album Straight out of Compton
      became a movie a hip-hop documentary of L.A. ghetto life that includes gangbangs, drive-by shootings and police sweeps. Ice cube wrote most of their lyrics.
      WARNING BAD MO LANGUAGE and poverty consequences …click at your…

      Reply
      • phantom snowflake

         /  14th January 2019

        My fave NWA. TURN IT UP!

        Reply
        • thespectrum

           /  14th January 2019

          Video for idiots

          Reply
          • phantom snowflake

             /  14th January 2019

            I appreciate your well-reasoned critique.

            Reply
            • thespectrum

               /  14th January 2019

              Thinking its funny leading police on a wild chase ain’t nothing to be proud of. Just ask those three people killed last night after fleeing police. Apparently 3 teenage boys one 16 and two 13 died in a ball of fire. May be they can super impose the funeral of these three boys and their grieving loved ones over the video you posted. Should be a smash hit eh

            • phantom snowflake

               /  14th January 2019

              It’s satire, and self-parody!!

            • thespectrum

               /  14th January 2019

              “It’s satire, and self-parody”!!
              No its not.
              Those dead boys are not satire.
              They are dead serious.

          • thespectrum

             /  14th January 2019

            1.”Active from 1986 to 1991, the rap group endured controversy owing to their music’s explicit lyrics, which many viewed as being disrespectful to women, as well as to its glorification of drugs and crime”.2. “They were known for their deep hatred of the police system, which sparked much controversy over the years.”
            3.”The taboo nature of N.W.A’s music was the most important factor of its mass appeal”.
            From wiki [wikipedia.org/wiki/N.W.A] No mention of parody.

            Reply
            • phantom snowflake

               /  14th January 2019

              “Wikipedia!” Oh that settles it then. (The music video is so drenched in satire that it would take some considerable effort not to notice.)

          • thespectrum

             /  14th January 2019

            No getting away from it ‘flake. Posting a video encouraging teenagers to flee from police in a car the day after a tragedy where three teenagers were killed fleeing in a car from police is in very bad taste. It’s no laughing matter.
            Extremely poor form 😦

            Reply
            • Blazer

               /  14th January 2019

              how about dem ..apples!

            • thespectrum

               /  14th January 2019

              Have to admit I never did identify with hip hop or rap.

            • Blazer

               /  14th January 2019

              listen to the lyrics..esp GMF.

            • Pickled Possum

               /  14th January 2019

              GMF
              This is one of the most important rap song ever made. It changed the game forever and it showed America for the first time on mainstream tv what black people have to go through every day just to survive!

            • thespectrum

               /  14th January 2019

              I still do not identify with rap at all and Reggae did nothing for me either. I don’t know why any Kiwi would like American gangster rap or Jamaican reggae. Complete mystery to me.

            • PartisanZ

               /  14th January 2019

              It ain’t the music of ‘White Privilege’ … dats for sure!!!

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  15th January 2019

              Who actually got the message, though? Seems to me it was the rappers themselves discovering their lives weren’t that great and they weren’t The Man.

  8. Alan Wilkinson

     /  14th January 2019

    I gather from sundry comments that PZ loves poverty and crap roads. Pre-colonial nirvana indeed.

    Reply
    • PartisanZ

       /  15th January 2019

      I’ve got it! I worked it out …

      That was an attempt to encompass all known reactionary Rightie retaliation techniques – delusion, deflection, derision, declenchion, convolution, ‘Stone-Age Culture’ and anti-awareness et al ad infinitum – and encapsulate them in as few words as possible …

      Well done Alan! And you’ve made yourself look rather puerile and foolish in the process.

      Reply
  9. Learn more about global poverty on borgenproject.org or https://borgenproject.org/global-issues/

    Reply

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