Worldwide Poverty Statistics

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Worldwide poverty statistics reveal that large numbers of people throughout the world are struggling to provide the necessities of life for themselves and their families.

Absolute Poverty vs. Relative Poverty

When discussing poverty around the world, it is important to understand the difference between absolute poverty and relative poverty.

Absolute Poverty

Absolute poverty is sometimes called extreme poverty. It is most often defined as the absence of basic needs for human life. These include:

  • Safe drinking water
  • Food
  • Medical treatment
  • Shelter
  • Sanitation facilities
  • Education
  • Information via newspapers, radios, telephones, televisions or computers

In 2010, the United Nations began using the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) to measure worldwide poverty. This measurement incorporates all of the basic factors listed above into one measurement of a country's economic standing. Before this time, the UN used the Human Poverty Index which measured length of life, knowledge, and standard of living to assess a country's level of poverty.

Relative Poverty

Relative poverty is a measure of a person's income in relation to his neighbors. This means that a person might be defined as poor if he earns less than half of the median income in his neighborhood, regardless of how affluent the richest people happen to be. Relative poverty is typically an important part of the discussion on income inequality.

In the United States, poverty is most often discussed in terms of relative poverty. While people at this level have access to a general quality of life that is higher than what they'd experience in a less developed part of the world, they are not able to access the resources that would allow them to make significant changes in their financial situation. For example, a person living in relative poverty may lack the transportation to get to a higher-paying job that would allow him or her to move to a neighborhood offering better quality schools for his or her children.

Income Variance by Country

The list of the richest and poorest counties in the world tends to fluctuate from year to year, depending upon who is compiling the data. However, the following countries are generally accepted to be among the wealthiest counties:

  • Luxemburg
  • Qatar
  • Norway
  • Kuwait
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Singapore
  • United States
  • Ireland
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Switzerland

On the opposite end of the spectrum, some of the poorest countries in the world include:

  • Niger
  • Ethiopia
  • Mali
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Somalia
  • Central African Republic
  • Liberia
  • Guinea
  • Sierra Leone

In reviewing the list above, you may notice that Sub-Saharan Africa is by far the poorest region in the world. The second-poorest region is South Asia.

Where Do I Fit In?

If you're interested in how your personal income compares to the rest of the world, you can visit the Global Rich List website. Type your income into the search box on the main page to reveal your ranking. The site uses data from the World Bank Development Research Group to calculate its rankings.

The goal of the Global Rich List is to illustrate how fortunate people in the developed parts of the world are compared to the citizens of the poorest nations. For example, a person in the United States with an income of $50,000 per year would rank in the top 0.98% of the richest people in the world. This is based on the often-quoted statistic that half of the people in the world live on an annual income that is less than $2.50 per day.

Learn More About Worldwide Poverty Statistics

For additional information about poverty throughout the world, LoveToKnow Save recommends the following resources:

Worldwide Poverty Statistics