Trends in Global Poverty


The geography of world poverty is dynamic, and is increasingly influenced by global phenomena such as globalization, climate change and the world’s financial markets. According to recent research, many of the world’s poorest people no longer live in the world’s poorest countries. Rather, current trends point to growing social inequalities within many countries, with a widening gap between rich and poor people - fuelling social tensions and calls for social justice. The widespread use of social and other media also means that people all over the world are increasingly aware of the power relations that impact upon their lives, and have opportunities to react. Poor people are no longer as voiceless as they once were.


More evidence for falling poverty in Asia, linked to falling birth rates
Jane Carter, October, 2014

A new ODI report by two economists, Steve Wiggins and Sharada Keats, suggests that rural wages have been rising steadily in most Asian countries since the mid 2000s – and that the speed of this trend is probably increasing (1). The authors made a comprehensive analysis of available figures from 13 East, South and Southeast Asian countries, with particular focus on Bangladesh, China, India and Indonesia – where, of course, populations are particularly high. The increase in rural wages that they find is striking. Read more»

Global Demand for Natural Resources and Local Demands for Justice: About business, land and rights…
Anne-Sophie Gindroz, September 2014

This editorial aims to reflect the multidimensionality of the issue of global demands for natural resources and local demands for justice. It touches on some of the diverse agendas, development visions and arguments being mobilised by a wide range of actors. Communities – from the First Nations of northern Québec to farmers in rural Niger – are caught in the middle of these games without having been able to play a role in defining the rules. What unites these disparate cases is that the fundamental question that matters in the end is: Who owns these resources and who makes the decisions? Read more »

Making a Better World? How being reflexive could make us more effective development practitioners
Jane Carter, August 2014

Rosalind Eyben is a name that is likely to be familiar to many readers of this website – probably particularly for her work at IDS on power, knowledge, and theories of change, and her engagement in “The Big Push Forward”. Although she recently retired from her position of Professorial Research Fellow, she remains very active in development circles and has published two books in the space of less than a year. The most recent is a very personal reflection on the evolution of development thinking and practice from the 1960s to the present, in which she calls for all of us working in development to use reflexive practice. Read more »

The Tyranny of Performance: Or the luxury of time...
Anne-Sophie Gindroz
, May 2014

Did you know that 30 percent of the World Bank’s (WB) Policy Reports are NEVER downloaded? Another 40 percent of their reports had been downloaded fewer than 100 times and only 13 percent have seen more than 250 downloads in their lifetimes. What about your organization? What about my organization? What about you and me? Do you also have this file on your computer where you save “interesting”, “reference” or “important” documents, but you rarely have the time to consult them? Do you also have this “to read” folder on your desk, which you open only to add another printed copy you swear you are going to read? What kind of documents are these usually? Political reports, studies or research papers, critical views or in-depth analysis, sources of information meant to help us better understand the complexity of this world and, hopefully, help us do the right thing. Important, isn’t it? So why don’t we find the time to read more, and perhaps more importantly, to listen more? Maybe it is because we simply do not have the time. Or maybe it is because we are not encouraged to spend time this way. Read more »

Partnerships with the Private Sector for Development: The private sector as a driving force for development: what are we talking about?
Anne-Sophie Gindroz, April 2014

While the private sector is championed as a partner in development, mounting concerns about increasing disparities between and within countries are being voiced. How does this renewed focus on economic operators address the issue of inequitable growth? What would be the conditions for a successful partnership with the private sector? And how can aid agencies and governments contribute to it. Read more »

The Dangerous Economics of Inequality: The IMF adds its voice to a growing chorus
Jane Carter
, April 2014

A policy paper brought out by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on March 13, 2014 argues that “there is growing evidence that high income inequality can be detrimental to achieving macroeconomic stability and growth”. For many people, particularly those on the left of the political spectrum, this conclusion will not be surprising. Nevertheless, it is a significant policy step for the IMF, especially as the paper further notes that there is no evidence to suggest that redistributive policies are bad for growth, except in extreme cases. Whilst the IMF is careful to avoid any prescriptions for fiscal redistribution, it discusses a variety of options. The paper has been broadly welcomed in development circles; for example Oxfam spokesperson Nicolas Mombrial was quoted as saying, “This is the final judgment on inequality being bad for growth”. Read more »

Growing Inequalities and Global Governance: The globalized economy benefits a few at the expense of many, but who sets the rules of the game?
Anne-Sophie Gindroz, February 2014

On the 20th of January, just two days before the 2014 World Economic Forum Meeting (22-25 January) in Davos, Oxfam released a shocking report on inequalities, showing how the gap between rich and poor has been widening. It reads: “the 85 richest people on Earth now have the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the global population”. Additionally “the top 1% has 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the population”. Read more »

So Being Poor Saps Mental Abilities? An article in the journal Science links poverty and cognitive function
Jane Carter
, September 2013

An article recently published in the prestigious weekly journal Science, titled “Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function”, has attracted considerable media attention. The argument in the paper is categorically not that poor people are inherently stupid, but that the multiple worries engendered by poverty – here considered primarily in economic terms – drain cognitive capacities. Indeed, in times of financial hardship the same person has a poorer cognitive function than in times of relative affluence. One review discusses this in terms of mental “bandwidth”; “We only have so much cognitive capacity to spread around. It's a scarce resource”. Living in poverty takes up a lot of this “bandwidth”. Read more »

Reaching the Poorest of the Poor
Bernd Steimann, May 2013

The World Bank has recently announced that it intends to adjust its focus of interventions towards the poorest in society, mainly through boosting economic growth and increasing the income of the “bottom 40%”. Now that is certainly a laudable intention, yet the Bank may encounter some problems on the way. In fact, reaching out to the poorest people can be – in many respects – a difficult endeavour, not only for donors and development practitioners, but also for statisticians. Read more »

Contested New Geographies of Poverty and Aid
Bernd Steimann, November 2012

"How many poor people are there in the world, based on how poverty is defined where those people live?" Starting from this simple question, Andy Sumner and Ugo Gentilini of IDS have set out to revisit global geographies of poverty and aid. Challenging some fundamental assumptions of the global aid industry, their working paper and a related policy brief have stirred an intriguing and still ongoing debate. Read more »