More than 1 billion people across the globe are forced to live on a daily budget of less than $1.25. This must cover all of their basic needs including food, medicine and shelter — not to mention their children’s needs.
The World Bank defines this stark reality as the “extreme poverty” rate, and every day people around the world are faced with the immense challenge of surviving in extreme poverty, which former World Bank President Robert McNamara described as a condition of deprivation that “falls below any rational definition of human decency.”
The percentage of the world’s population living in extreme poverty, according to the $1.25 rate set in 1990, was halved in 2010. It is set to be cut in half again in the next two decades. But even the richest countries — including America — have yet to eradicate extreme poverty.
Fighting poverty (not just extreme poverty) is about more than slick posters and hashtags. It involves a tough, hard look at all of the factors that create economic inequality, both locally and on the global scale. As the 2015 Global Citizen Festival in New York City today shines a light on efforts to eradicate extreme poverty, here’s a look at some of the most startling facts behind the global scourge:
1. The number of people living on less than $1.25 per day has dramatically decreased in the last three decades, from half of the citizens in the developing world in 1981 to 21% in 2010. But, there are still there are still more than 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty.
2. The top five poorest countries in the world are India (with 33% of the world’s poor), China (13%), Nigeria (7%), Bangladesh (6%) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (5%).
3. Adding another five countries — Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya — would include almost 80% of the world’s extreme poor.
4. About 22,000 children die each day due to conditions of poverty.
5. Approximately 1.2 billion people — nearly as many as the entire population of India — still live without access to electricity.
6. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for more than one-third of the world’s extreme poor.
7. Combining results from 27 Sub-Saharan African countries, 54% of residents are living in extreme poverty — the highest proportion among global regions worldwide.
8. About 75% of the world’s poor people live in rural areas, depending on agriculture for their livelihood.
9. In 2010, the average income of the extremely poor in the developing world was 87 cents per capita per day, up from 74 cents in 1981.
10. If the developing world outside of China returns to its slower pace of growth and poverty reduction rates of the 1980s and 1990s, it would take 50 years or more to lift 1 billion people out of poverty.
11. India has a greater share of the world’s poor than it did 30 years ago. Then, India was home to about one-fifth of the world’s poorest people. Today, close to one-third of the world’s extreme poor are concentrated in India.
12. But poverty is not just an issue in the developing world. There are 16.4 million children living in poverty in the United States. That’s about 21%, compared to less than 10% in the U.K. and in France. The percentage of poor children in the U.S. has also climbed by 4.6% since the start of the Great Recession in 2007.
14. Israel has the highest poverty rate in the developed world, about 20.9%, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
15. The “extreme poverty rate” among women in the United States climbed to 6.3 percent in 2010 from 5.9 percent in 2009, according to census data.
16. In 2010, one out of every six Americans were enrolled in at least one government anti-poverty program. One in four children in America participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, in 2011.
18. More than 7.5 million women fell into the “extreme poverty category” in 2010.
19. Taking food stamps, housing subsidies and refundable tax credits into account, the number of American households in extreme poverty is 613,000, which is about 1.6% of non-elderly households with children.
20. Poverty is the main cause of hunger because the poor lack the resources to grow or purchase the food they need.
21. Even though there is enough food produced worldwide to provide everyone with an adequate diet, nearly 854 million people, or 1 in 7, still go hungry.
22. Globally, an estimated 226 million children are stunted—shorter than they should be—due to malnutrition. Stunting also causes a number of other serious problems, including impairments in mental capacity, physical movement and coordination, and social skills — all of which can seriously hinder future economic opportunities.
23. About 2.8 billion people still rely on wood, crop waste, dung and other biomass to cook and to heat their homes.
24. Despite the fact that China has achieved more than any other nation in energy efficiency, the country still faces some of the world’s greatest energy poverty challenges. Almost 612.8 million people, nearly twice the population of the United States, lack clean fuel for cooking and heating in China.
25. More than 6.9 million children died under the age of five in 2011 — that’s about 800 every hour — most of whom could have survived threats and thrived with access to simple, affordable interventions.
26. As of 2013, 21.8 million children under 1 year of age worldwide had not received the three recommended doses of vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
27. Two-thirds of countries worldwide are not on track to meet Millennium Development Goal 4 — to reduce the under-5 death rate by two-thirds by the end of 2015.
28. A child born in the world’s poorest nations has a 1 in 6 chance of dying before their fifth birthday. In high-income countries, the odds are about 1 in 165.
29. The richest 85 people in the world control as much wealth as the poorest half of the world.
30. The world’s 100 richest people earned enough money in 2012 to end extreme world poverty four times over, according to a report by Oxfam.
31. Rich people who live in neighborhoods with other wealthy people usually give a smaller share of their income to charity than rich people who live in economically diverse communities, according to this study of tax records in the United States.
32. Other studies show that, overall, higher earners are less inclined to give to charity, and when they do, they typically donate a smaller share of their money compared to those with lower incomes.
33. According to a survey titled “Perceptions of Poverty: The Salvation Army’s Report to America,” almost half of those surveyed believed that “a good work ethic is all you need to escape poverty.”
34. Almost 43% believed that if poor people want a job, they could always find a job, while 27% said that people are often poor because they are lazy. Another 29% even said they have lower moral values.
35. Economic mobility — the very heart of the American dream — is lower in the U.S. than in almost any other high-income country in the world. Among the major developed countries, only in Italy and the United Kingdom is there less economic mobility.
36. Economic mobility is lowest for those living in households in or near poverty. Children from low-income families have only a 1 percent chance of reaching the top 5 percent of the income distribution, versus children of the rich who have about a 22 percent chance.
37. The median income for people in the developing world is $3 or less a day. That’s less than the cost of a frappuccino at Starbucks.
38. The “global middle class” income bottoms out at about $10 a day.
39. The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism found that out of 52 mainstream media outlets analyzed, coverage of poverty issues amounted to less than 1% of available news space from 2007 to 2012, a period that covered the historic recession.
40. The report also concluded that media organizations chose not to cover poverty because “it was potentially uncomfortable to advertisers seeking to reach a wealthy consumer audience.”
41. Given the number of occasions that world leaders and influencers have promised to eradicate poverty, the world should be much further along than it is. In April 2013, Jim Kim, president of the World Bank said, “For the first time ever, we have a real opportunity to end extreme poverty within a generation.” Eight years before that, Nelson Mandela said, “In this new century, millions of people in the world’s poorest countries remain imprisoned, enslaved, and in chains. They are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free.” Before that, President Lyndon B. Johnson launched his war on poverty by saying “for the first time in our history, it is possible to conquer poverty.” That was back in 1964.
42. In order for the world to effectively reduce poverty, countries need to focus not only on achieving growth as an end in itself but also on implementing policies that allocate resources to the poor, including raising income growth among the bottom 40% of earners.
43. One report warns of poverty’s “revolving door,” alluding to the fact that climbing out of extreme poverty and staying there can be very difficult unless more is done by 2030 to support the world’s poorest populations in hard times.
44. The world achieved Millennium Development Goal 1 — to halve the poverty rate among developing countries — five years ahead of schedule in 2010.
45. Despite financial crises and surging food prices, the share of people living in extreme poverty across the globe has continued to decline in recent years.