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Global poverty is one of the most pressing problems that the world faces today. The poorest in the world are often undernourished, without access to basic services such as electricity and safe drinking water; they have less access to education, and suffer from much poorer health.

In order to make progress against such poverty in the future, we need to understand poverty around the world today and how it has changed.

On this page you can find all our data, visualizations and writing relating to poverty. This work aims to help you understand the scale of the problem today; where progress has been achieved and where it has not; what can be done to make progress against poverty in the future; and the methods behind the data on which this knowledge is based.

Key insights on Poverty

Measuring global poverty in an unequal world

There is no single definition of poverty. Our understanding of the extent of poverty and how it is changing depends on which definition we have in mind.

In particular, richer and poorer countries set very different poverty lines in order to measure poverty in a way that is informative and relevant to the level of incomes of their citizens.

For instance, while in the United States a person is counted as being in poverty if they live on less than roughly $24.55 per day, in Ethiopia the poverty line is set more than 10 times lower – at $2.04 per day. You can read more about how these comparable national poverty lines are calculated in this footnote.1

To measure poverty globally, however, we need to apply a poverty line that is consistent across countries. 

This is the goal of the International Poverty Line of $2.15 per day – shown in red in the chart – which is set by the World Bank and used by the UN to monitor extreme poverty around the world.

We see that, in global terms, this is an extremely low threshold indeed – set to reflect the poverty lines adopted nationally in the world’s poorest countries. It marks an incredibly low standard of living – a level of income much lower than just the cost of a healthy diet.

Methods & data quality
  • Global poverty data relies on national household surveys that have differences affecting their comparability across countries or over time. Here the data for the US relates to incomes and the data for other countries relates to consumption expenditure.2
  • The poverty lines here are an approximation of national definitions of poverty, made in order to allow comparisons across the countries.3
  • Non-market sources of income, including food grown by subsistence farmers for their own consumption, are taken into account.4
  • Data is measured in 2017 international-$, which means that inflation and differences in the cost of living across countries are taken into account.5
Five income distributions national poverty and ipl 2

Global extreme poverty declined substantially over the last generation

Over the past generation extreme poverty declined hugely. This is one of the most important ways our world has changed over this time.

There are more than a billion fewer people living below the International Poverty Line of $2.15 per day today than in 1990. On average, the number declined by 47 million every year, or 130,000 people each day.6

The scale of global poverty today, however, remains vast. The latest global estimates of extreme poverty are for 2019. In that year the World Bank estimates that around 650 million people – roughly one in twelve – were living on less than $2.15 a day.

Methods & data quality:
  • Global poverty data relies on national household surveys that have differences affecting their comparability across countries or over time.7
  • Surveys are less frequently available in poorer countries and for earlier decades. To produce regional and global poverty estimates, the World Bank collates the closest survey for each country and projects the data forward or backwards to the year being estimated.8
  • Non-market sources of income, including food grown by subsistence farmers for their own consumption, are taken into account.9
  • Data is measured in 2017 international-$, which means that inflation and differences in the cost of living across countries are taken into account.10

The pandemic pushed millions into extreme poverty

Official estimates for global poverty over the course of the Coronavirus pandemic are not yet available. 

But it is clear that the global recession it brought about has had a terrible impact on the world’s poorest.

Preliminary estimates produced by researchers at the World Bank suggest that the number of people in extreme poverty rose by around 70 million in 2020 – the first substantial rise in a generation – and remains around 70-90 million higher than would have been expected in the pandemic’s absence. On these preliminary estimates, the global extreme poverty rate rose to around 9% in 2020.11

Methods & data quality:
  • Figures for 2020-2022 are preliminary estimates and projections by World Bank researchers, based on economic growth forecasts. The pre-pandemic projection is based on growth forecasts prior to the pandemic. You can read more about this data and the methods behind it in the World Bank’s Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2022 report.12
  • Global poverty data relies on national household surveys that have differences affecting their comparability across countries or over time.13
  • Surveys are less frequently available in poorer countries and for earlier decades. To produce regional and global poverty estimates, the World Bank collates the closest survey for each country and projects the data forward or backwards to the year being estimated.14
  • Non-market sources of income, including food grown by subsistence farmers for their own consumption, are taken into account.15
  • Data is measured in 2017 international-$, which means that inflation and differences in the cost of living across countries are taken into account.16
Number of poor plus projections 1

Extreme poverty declined during the last generation because the majority of the poorest people on the planet lived in countries with strong economic growth – primarily in Asia.

The majority of the poorest now live in Sub-Saharan Africa, where weaker economic growth and high population growth in many countries has led to a rising number of people living in extreme poverty.

The chart here shows projections of global extreme poverty produced by World Bank researchers based on economic growth forecasts.17

A very bleak future is ahead of us should such weak economic growth in the world’s poorest countries continue – a future in which extreme poverty is the reality for hundreds of millions for many years to come.

Methods & data quality:
  • The extreme poverty estimates and projections shown here relate to a previous release of the World Bank’s poverty and inequality data in which incomes are expressed in 2011 international-$. The World Bank has since updated its methods, and now measures incomes in 2017 international-$. As part of this change, the International Poverty Line used to measure extreme poverty has also been updated: from $1.90 (in 2011 prices) to $2.15 (in 2017 prices).

    This has had little effect on our overall understanding of poverty and inequality around the world. You can read more about this change and how it affected the World Bank estimates of poverty in our article From $1.90 to $2.15 a day: the updated International Poverty Line.
  • Figures for 2018 and beyond are preliminary estimates and projections by Lakner et al. (2022), based on economic growth forecasts. You can read more about this data and the methods behind it in the related blog post.18
  • Global poverty data relies on national household surveys that have differences affecting their comparability across countries or over time.19
  • Surveys are less frequently available in poorer countries and for earlier decades. To produce regional and global poverty estimates, the World Bank collates the closest survey for each country and projects the data forward or backwards to the year being estimated.20
  • Non-market sources of income, including food grown by subsistence farmers for their own consumption, are taken into account.21
  • Data is measured in 2011 international-$, which means that inflation and differences in the cost of living across countries are taken into account.22
Projections to 2030 by world region

The rapid progress seen in many countries shows an end to poverty is possible

Each of the countries shown in the chart achieved large declines in extreme poverty over the last generation.23

The fact that rapid progress against poverty has been achieved in many places is one of the most important lessons we can learn from the available data on extreme poverty.

For those who are not aware of such progress – which is the majority of people – it would be easy to make the mistake of believing that poverty is inevitable and that action to tackle poverty is hence doomed to fail.

The huge progress seen in so many places shows that this view is incorrect.

Methods & data quality:
  • Global poverty data relies on national household surveys that have differences affecting their comparability across countries or over time.24
  • Non-market sources of income, including food grown by subsistence farmers for their own consumption, are taken into account.25
  • Data is measured in 2017 international-$, which means that inflation and differences in the cost of living across countries are taken into account.26

After 200 years of progress the fight against global poverty is just beginning

Over the past two centuries the world made good progress against extreme poverty. But only very recently has poverty fallen at higher poverty lines.

Global poverty rates at these higher lines remain very high:

  • 25% of the world lives on less than $3.65 per day – a poverty line broadly reflective of the lines adopted in lower-middle income countries.
  • 47% of the world lives on less than $6.85 per day – a poverty line broadly reflective of the lines adopted in upper-middle income countries.
  • 84% live on less than $30 per day – a poverty line broadly reflective of the lines adopted in high income countries.27

Economic growth over the past two centuries has allowed the majority of the world to leave extreme poverty behind. But by the standards of today’s rich countries, the world remains very poor. If this should change, the world needs to achieve very substantial economic growth further still.

Methods & data quality:
  • The data from 1981 onwards is based on household surveys collated by the World Bank. Earlier figures are from Moatsos (2021), who extends the series backwards based on historical reconstructions of GDP per capita and inequality data.28
  • All data is measured in international-$ which means that inflation and differences in purchasing power across countries are taken into account.29

    The World Bank data for the higher poverty lines is measured in 2017 international-$, and the Moatsos (2021) series for extreme poverty is based on 2011 international-$ using the previously used value for the International Poverty Line of $1.90 a day (in 2011 prices). You can read more about the update to the World Bank’s methodology and how it has affected its estimates of poverty in our article From $1.90 to $2.15 a day: the updated International Poverty Line.
  • The global poverty data shown from 1981 onwards relies on national household surveys that have differences affecting their comparability across countries or over time.30
  • Such surveys are less frequently available in poorer countries and for earlier decades. To produce regional and global poverty estimates, the World Bank collates the closest survey for each country and projects the data forward or backwards to the year being estimated.31
  • Non-market sources of income, including food grown by subsistence farmers for their own consumption, are taken into account. This is also true of the historical data – in producing historical estimates of GDP per capita on which these long-run estimates are based, economic historians take into account such non-market sources of income, as we discuss further in our article How do we know the history of extreme poverty?
Share of the world population in extreme poverty moatsos 2021 – reworked with 2017 ppp data from pip 2

Explore data on Poverty

About this data

All the data included in this explorer is available to download in GitHub, alongside a range of other poverty and inequality metrics.

Where is this data sourced from?

This data explorer is collated and adapted from the World Bank’s Poverty and Inequality Platform (PIP).

The World Bank’s PIP data is a large collection of household surveys where steps have been taken by the World Bank to harmonize definitions and methods across countries and over time.

About the comparability of household surveys

There is no global survey of incomes. To understand how incomes across the world compare, researchers need to rely on available national surveys.

Such surveys are partly designed with cross-country comparability in mind, but because the surveys reflect the circumstances and priorities of individual countries at the time of the survey, there are some important differences.

Income vs expenditure surveys

One important issue is that the survey data included within the PIP database tends to measure people’s income in high-income countries, and people’s consumption expenditure in poorer countries.

The two concepts are closely related: the income of a household equals their consumption plus any saving, or minus any borrowing or spending out of savings. 

One important difference is that, while zero consumption is not a feasible value – people with zero consumption would starve – a zero income is a feasible value. This means that, at the bottom end of the distribution, income and consumption can give quite different pictures about a person’s welfare. For instance, a person dissaving in retirement may have a very low, or even zero, income, but have a high level of consumption nevertheless.

The gap between income and consumption is higher at the top of this distribution too, richer households tend to save more, meaning that the gap between income and consumption is higher at the top of this distribution too. Taken together, one implication is that inequality measured in terms of consumption is generally somewhat lower than the inequality measured in terms of income.

In our Data Explorer of this data there is the option to view only income survey data or only consumption survey data, or instead to pool the data available from both types of survey – which yields greater coverage.

Other comparability issues

There are a number of other ways in which comparability across surveys can be limited. The PIP Methodology Handbook provides a good summary of the comparability and data quality issues affecting this data and how it tries to address them.

In collating this survey data the World Bank takes a range of steps to harmonize it where possible, but comparability issues remain. These affect comparisons both across countries and within individual countries over time.

To help communicate the latter, the World Bank produces a variable that groups surveys within each individual country into more comparable ‘spells’. Our Data Explorer provides the option of viewing the data with these breaks in comparability indicated, and these spells are also indicated in our data download.

Global and regional poverty estimates

Along with data for individual countries, the World Bank also provides global and regional poverty estimates which aggregate over the available country data.

Surveys are not conducted annually in every country however – coverage is generally poorer the further back in time you look, and remains particularly patchy within Sub-Saharan Africa. You can see that visualized in our chart of the number of surveys included in the World Bank data by decade.

In order to produce global and regional aggregate estimates for a given year, the World Bank takes the surveys falling closest to that year for each country and ‘lines-up’ the data to the year being estimated by projecting it forwards or backwards.

This lining-up is generally done on the assumption that household incomes or expenditure grow in line with the growth rates observed in national accounts data. You can read more about the interpolation methods used by the World Bank in Chapter 5 of the Poverty and Inequality Platform Methodology Handbook.

How does the data account for inflation and for differences in the cost of living across countries?

To account for inflation and price differences across countries, the World Bank’s data is measured in international dollars. This is a hypothetical currency that results from price adjustments across time and place. It is defined as having the same purchasing power as one US-$ would in the United States in a given base year. One int.-$ buys the same quantity of goods and services no matter where or when it is spent.

There are many challenges to making such adjustments and they are far from perfect. Angus Deaton (Deaton, 2010) provides a good discussion of the difficulties involved in price adjustments and how this relates to global poverty measurement.

But in a world where price differences across countries and over time are large it is important to attempt to account for these differences as well as possible, and this is what these adjustments do.

In September 2022, the World Bank updated its methodology, and now uses international-$ expressed in 2017 prices – updated from 2011 prices. This has had little effect on our overall understanding of poverty and inequality around the world. But poverty estimates for particular countries vary somewhat between the old and updated methodology. You can read more about this update in our article From $1.90 to $2.15 a day: the updated International Poverty Line.

To allow for comparisons with the official data now expressed in 2017 international-$ data, the World Bank continues to release its poverty and inequality data expressed in 2011 international-$ as well. We have built a Data Explorer to allow you to compare these, and we make all figures available in terms of both sets of prices in our data download.

Absolute vs relative poverty lines

This dataset provides poverty estimates for a range of absolute and relative poverty lines.

An absolute poverty line represents a fixed standard of living; a threshold that is held constant across time. Within the World Bank’s poverty data, absolute poverty lines also aim to represent a standard of living that is fixed across countries (by converting local currencies to international-$). The International Poverty Line of $2.15 per day (in 2017 international-$) is the best known absolute poverty line and is used by the World Bank and the UN to measure extreme poverty around the world.

The value of relative poverty lines instead rises and falls as average incomes change within a given country. In most cases they are set at a certain fraction of the median income. Because of this, relative poverty can be considered a metric of inequality – it measures how spread out the bottom half of the income distribution is.

The idea behind measuring poverty in relative terms is that a person’s well-being depends not on their own absolute standard of living but on how that standard compares with some reference group, or whether it enables them to participate in the norms and customs of their society. For instance, joining a friend’s birthday celebration without shame might require more resources in a rich society if the norm is to go for an expensive meal out, or give costly presents.

Our dataset includes three commonly-used relative poverty lines: 40%, 50%, and 60% of the median.

Such lines are most commonly used in rich countries, and are the main way poverty is measured by the OECD and the European Union.

More recently, relative poverty measures have come to be applied in a global context. The share of people living below 50 per cent of median income is, for instance, one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal indicators. And the World Bank now produces estimates of global poverty using a Societal Poverty Line that combines absolute and relative components.

When comparing relative poverty rates around the world, however, it is important to keep in mind that – since average incomes are so far apart – such relative poverty lines relate to very different standards of living in rich and poor countries.

Does the data account for non-market income, such as food grown by subsistence farmers?

Many poor people today, as in the past, rely on subsistence farming rather than a monetary income gained from selling goods or their labor on the market. To take this into account and make a fair comparison of their living standards, the statisticians that produce these figures estimate the monetary value of their home production and add it to their income/expenditure.

Research & Writing

Global poverty over the long-run

Poverty & economic growth

All our interactive charts on Poverty