Data InsightsNational poverty lines differ widely between countries
April 17, 2024Esteban Ortiz-Ospina

National poverty lines differ widely between countries

Scatter plot showing national poverty line (y axis) vs. GDP per capita (x axis)

Global economic inequality is very large. We see this in the differences between average incomes across countries. In this chart, average income is plotted along the horizontal axis and measured by GDP per capita. While the average income is $1,750 in Ethiopia, in Switzerland it’s around $69,000 — this is after adjusting for differences in cost of living.

Because standards of living are so different, richer countries set their own national poverty lines much higher, to measure poverty in a way that is informative and relevant to their citizens' incomes.

The scatter plot captures this insight. As we can see, richer countries (higher GDP per capita along the horizontal axis) tend to set much higher national poverty lines (higher position along the vertical axis).

In Switzerland, a person is considered in poverty if they live on less than the equivalent of roughly $36 per day; in Ethiopia, the national poverty line is around $2 per day.

→ Read more in our page on global poverty. If you are looking for more details on this Data Insight specifically, you can find it in the study on which it is based: Joliffe et al. (2022).