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These three charts show how the world could end extreme poverty by 2030

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has said the world can end extreme poverty in 17 years. But  do the numbers add up?

Laurence Chandy argues there is a good chance they do in a new Brookings Institution study. In an e-mail he notes that a large group of people -- the statistical mode -- are currently hovering near the $1.25-a-day poverty line. "It is a dismal reflection of human progress," he writes, "But it also has an upside...The potential for further poverty reduction over the immediate future is there for the taking."

A few things will have to happen for the poverty reduction goal to be hit, write Chandy, Natasha Ledlie and Veronika Penciakova, who liken global poverty elimination to a relay race. India will have to up its game on both economic growth and the distribution of the benefits. As this chart shows, China has mostly run its leg of the relay – with economic growth that has lifted hundreds of millions from poverty and, almost on its own, put the world on trend to reach Kim’s goal. (Follow the link for an interactive version that shows how the breakdown of extreme poverty has varied over time and is projected to evolve in the future). Relatively few Chinese remain in this circumstance of dire poverty, while the numbers of extreme poor in India and sub-Saharan Africa remain enormous.

Source: The Brookings Institution
Source: The Brookings Institution

After India, the politically fragile and sometimes conflict-ridden nations of Africa will need to show they can make economic progress – and hold onto it. That may be the biggest challenge to the world meeting Kim’s goal.


In terms of what this all means for people, the graph below shows the range of outcomes the authors estimate might occur depending on growth in the developing world, and how the benefits of growth are distributed. The human implications are staggering: At the world’s current population, the difference between the best- and worst-case outcomes shown below is in excess of 600 million people. And keep in mind, we are talking about $1.25 per day as the marker for “non-poor.”




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Evan Soltas · May 9, 2013

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