Global poverty in an unequal world

Global poverty in an unequal world: Who is considered poor in a rich country? And what does this mean for our understanding of global poverty?

82% of the world population live in countries where the mean income is less than $20 per day.

This is a chart I made for my latest post on global poverty

Abstract: The extremely low poverty line that the UN relies on has the advantage that it draws the attention to the very poorest people in the world. It has the disadvantage that it ignores what is happening to the incomes of the 90% of the world population who live above the extreme poverty threshold.
The global poverty line that the UN relies on is based on the national poverty lines in the world’s poorest countries. In this article I ask what global poverty looks like if we rely on the notions of poverty that are common in the world’s rich countries – like Denmark, the US, or Germany. Based on the evidence I ask what our aspirations for the future of global poverty reduction might be.

In every country of the world there are people living in poverty. Even in the world’s richest countries the poorest people often live in poor housing and struggle to afford basic goods and services like heating, transport, and healthy food for themselves and their family.
Those who are in monetary poverty also have much poorer living conditions more broadly. Even in a rich and relatively equal country like Denmark middle-aged men who are among the poorest 20% of the population die on average 9 years earlier than those among the richest 20%.1 In Denmark a person who lives on less than $30 per day is considered poor, and it is the declared goal of the country to reduce poverty relative to this threshold.

Countries that are much poorer than Denmark also have the goal to reduce poverty. The United Nations declared the objective of ending ‘extreme poverty’ to be the number 1 goal of the global Sustainable Development Goals. According to the UN a person is considered to live in extreme poverty when he or she is living on less than $1.90 per day, this is called the International Poverty Line. According to the latest global statistics about one in ten people live in extreme poverty globally.