Poverty facts and statistics

Financing the MDGs

Here are some comparisons of what it would cost to achieve the Millennium Development Goals with other expenditures.

According to the Zedillo report to the UN, the MDGs will cost approximately the following to implement:


These contrast with the following spending figures (for 2005):


US military spending in 2005 was the equivalent of over $731,000 per day for every day since Jesus was born. Since then expenditure has almost certainly increased, following the Iraq troop ‘surge’. By contrast, despite all the assurances from the G8 that aid flows would be increased, overseas development assistance fell in real terms by 5.1% from 2005 to 2006 (or 1.8% if debt relief is excluded). The early data from the OECD suggests that it fell a further 8.5% in real terms between 2006 and 2007.


Poverty Headcount

In 2001 the World Bank estimated that 2.8 billion people – nearly half the world population – live on less than $2 a day. In its latest figures the World Bank reported that 1.4 billion people in the developing world (one in four) were living on less than US$1.25 a day in 2005. In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) the proportion of people living below $1.25 a day has remained the same, at 50%, from 1981 to 2005. In absolute terms, however, the number of poor people in SSA nearly doubled, from 200 million in 1981 to 390 million in 2005.


Poverty headcount and the MDGs

Even if the first Millennium Development Goal (to halve the number of people on less than a dollar a day) were to be achieved in 2015, this would still leave some 900 million people living in absolute poverty and deprivation. See the Chronic Poverty Report 2008, page 16.

The World Bank reports that the world is set to achieve this target by 2015. However, this is largely driven by the immense poverty reduction in China. Other areas of the world are seeing slower progress or little progress at all.


Education and escaping poverty

Twelve years of education, that is completing secondary school, protects 80 per cent of young people against poverty. While basic education remains a priority, investment beyond the primary level is also vital. See ECLAC, 1997, Social Panorama of Latin America, Santiago de Chile: ECLAC; also the Chronic Poverty Report 2008.


Capital flows from developing countries

Sony Kapoor notes: ‘For all but three years since 1970, developing countries have paid out more money in the form of interest, repayments, penalties and fines on old debt that they have received in the form of new loans’. Developing countries, he argues, lose more than $500bn a year in untaxed capital leaving their economies.



The UNDP’s 1999 Human Development Report found that the income gap between the fifth of the world’s population living in the richest countries and the fifth in the porrest was:

3 to 1 in 1820
11 to 1 in 1913
30 to 1 in 1960
60 to 1 in 1990
74 to 1 in 1997

In the late 1990s the fifth of the world’s population in the richest countries accounted for:

  • 86% of world GDP, while the bottom fifth had 1%
  • 82% of world export markets, while the bottom fifth had 1%
  • 68% of foreign direct investment, while the bottom fifth had just 1%
  • 74% of world telephone lines, while the bottom fifth had 1.5%.


Deaths from poverty

Over the last decade, disasters around the world have caused an average 90,000 deaths a year.

The UN estimates that 34,000 children and 16,000 adults die each day from hunger or preventable diseases with poverty-related causes. That amounts to 18 million a year. (See R Riddell, Does Foreign Aid Really Work?, Page 121).


African growth

Between 2001 and 2005 Sub Saharan Africa’s economy grew at an average of 4.5%. Over the same period, the members of the European Monetary Union grew at an average of 1.4%. At this rate, assuming zero population growth, SSA’s GDP per capita will have have caught up with that of the members of the European Monetary Union in roughly 2127. If the populations of the two regions were to continue to grow at the rate seen in 2005 (0.54% for the EMU countries and 2.33% for SSA) SSA’s per capita GDP would only catch up with that of the EMU countries in 2277.

(Data from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators).


More on Inequality

The richest 50 million people have the same income as the poorest 2.7 billion. As Larry Ellliot puts it, ‘The slice of the cake taken by 1% is the same size as that handed to the poorest 57%’.


Ultra poverty

Of the roughly 1 billion living on less than $1 a day, 162 million live on less than $0.50 a day. These are what the International Food Policy Research Institute calls the ‘ultra poor’. If these were found in a single country, it would be the seventh most populous country in the world. Three quarters of them are found in Sub-Saharan Africa.


Patent applications

Of the total patents granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office between 1997 and 2004, the USA, Japan and Germany collectively accounted for eighty per cent, with the US accounting for the greatest share at 53.16 per cent of the total. By contrast, China, India and Brazil collectively accounted for just 0.3 per cent of the total. Even these small numbers were high for developing countries. Between 1977 and 2006 Bangladesh, for instance, had 1 patent granted by the USPTO, while Uganda and the Ivory Coast did slightly better with 5 and 4 respectively. The Least Developed Countries as a whole were granted 48 patents by the USPTO between 1977 and 2006, representing 0.0014 per cent of the total.

(Sources: Shadlen, K, ‘Policy Space for Development in the WTO and Beyond’ pg 5, and the USPTO website).


Trans-National Corporations

Of the world’s 100 largest non-financial TNCs, seven are from developing countries. Of these, six are from Asia and one from Mexico. Their combined total assets are less than 50 per cent of the assets of the largest TNC, General Electric.

(Source: UNCTAD World Investment Report 2007, page 299).


The Distribution of Extreme Poverty

Cartogram of the Chronically Poor

The map above, taken from the 2008/9 Chronic Poverty Report, shows the distribution of poverty around the world. The area of each country is proportional to the number of people living there on less than a dollar a day. To see the original, go to page 11 of Chapter 1 of the report, linked above.


17 Responses to “Poverty facts and statistics”

  1. japuraalwis Says:

    Thanks 4 data

  2. minhaaj Says:

    awesome work. way to go

  3. sarah Says:

    fantastic work.

  4. ayo peters Says:

    good work. need facts on the level of poverty in Africa.

  5. Nairobian Says:

    Thanks for pointing out the facts so that we can be moved to greater action and response

  6. Win Says:

    Thanks, the school wil like this.

  7. Weather Statistics Says:

    Good info! I’m adding your feed.

  8. rahel :) Says:

    thanks alot for the data.

  9. Marie Says:

    This website didn’t help me. thnx lots.

  10. vivian mutulis Says:

    this is critical in framing a strategic plan,setting goals in the quest to achieve MDG’s….but at this rate,Africa might not catch up with the rest of the world in poverty eradication,unless it involves the governments of the day.

  11. vincent Bulathsinghala Says:

    Very useful information

  12. martina Says:

    somewhat useful

  13. Theresa Grant Says:

    Thank you! These stats were helpful.
    We are trying to reduce poverty by providing quality education to orphaned and vulnerable children. We are seeing that we are reducing poverty and creating leaders within their own countries.

  14. No Small Tempest Says:

    […] and actually.  Poverty is more than an inconvenient truth; it is the reality experienced by a staggering proportion of people on this earth.  Definitions of poverty change with the times, as do the positions about […]

  15. Behzad Says:

    it is really useful information. Thanks.

  16. Joan Says:

    Really helpful stats! Thank you! What is the US’s role in addressing these issues of global poverty, and could we be doing more? Check out http://www.borgenproject.org if you are interested!

  17. my pc backup key Says:

    Thankfulness to my father who shared with me on the topic of this weblog, this website is really amazing.

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