Wednesday, August 29, 2018

World Poverty

Jason Hickel, an anthropologist nd Charles Kenny, a researcher at the Center for Global Development have co-authored a post sussing out where they agree on the question of global poverty.

Hickel and Kenny both agree that the widely used $1.90 a day standard for measuring poverty is woefully inadequate, noting that some analysts have pegged $7.40 a day as “the minimum necessary to achieve good nutrition and normal life expectancy” while others have called for setting a bar twice as high. If we were to adopt $7.40 a day as our global poverty standard, we’d be confronted by the fact that a shockingly high proportion of the global population falls below it: “The absolute number of people living under $1.90/day has declined significantly, while the number of people living under $7.40/day has risen — from 3.19 billion in 1981 to 4.16 billion in 2013.” Some have argued that the $1.90 a day standard represents “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” or a bar set so low that it is designed more to elicit warm feelings than to reckon with the challenges ahead.

The present rate of poverty reduction is too slow for us to end $1.90/day poverty by 2030, or $7.40/day poverty in our lifetimes. To achieve this goal, we would need to change economic policy to make it fairer for the world’s majority. We will also need to respond to the growing crisis of climate change and ecological breakdown, which threatens the gains we have made.

They say, ultimately, the more morally relevant metric is not proportions or absolute numbers, but rather the extent of poverty vis-a-vis our capacity to end it. By this metric, the world has much to do—perhaps more than ever before.

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