I think, globally, poverty is increasing.

But, I might always be wrong. So this is the page for collecting evidence.


BillSeitz:z2004-09-30-RectorPovertyInequalityRecession links an essay (by http://www.heritage.org/Research/Welfare/bg1796.cfm) by) Robert Rector (which draws on which http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/p60-226.pdf which aims to debunk several claims of increasing poverty.

Some of my immediate responses to this :

On Poverty as an Economic Indicator

If I read the article correctly, what Rector is saying is that poverty is less and less affected by recessions and cyclic behavior of the market.

Comment : This would be compatible with a view that poverty was becoming more "structural". The poor are not those who've lost their jobs due to an economic downturn but those holding on to jobs which are simply not paying them enough to escape poverty.

Over 1,000,000 black children have been raised from poverty since welfare reform.

Comment : I hope it's true. According to the cited article (welfare http://www.heritage.org/Research/Welfare/bg1661.cfm), welfare,) reform seems to have had a polarizing effect with small amount of "extreme poverty" increasing and mild poverty reducing. (The cited ratio of improvement to worsening is 6:1)

Aside : the welfare reform period coincides with the boom in the American economy in the late 90s. Any connection?



  • Are we talking about within the FirstWorld, or across the WholeWorld? –BillSeitz

** oops, I should read before writing - your first line answers the question.

:: Actually evidence from everywhere is useful. I don't believe workers can be gaining money on every transaction but making it down in bulk. So data about particular countries and communities is useful. (Of course, we need global stats as well, to make sure we aren't looking at atypical examples.)

  • I wonder whether the right comparison is against-the-past vs against-the-alternative-present.

:: Good point. Ideally we'd like comparisons against alternative present. But that's always hypothetical, so we're going to have to look at historical trends against past situations and make conjectures about what might have been.

: For instance, without some of the new agricultural technology that's been invented, millions more in the ThirdWorld would have starved to death in the last few decades.

:: Data points? Data points?

::: see BillSeitz:NormanBorlaug

:::: Good call. Interesting – PhilJones

Are we talking absolute poverty or relative poverty? Relative poverty is always going to exist - by definition - and for various reasons I don't think it's the interesting measure for this debate.

If you can find stats that show that absolute global poverty has gotten worse in the last 50 years (higher % of malnutrition, higher % of deaths through preventable diseases, higher percentage of people living without adequate shelter, life expectancy getting shorter) then I would be very saddened. Of course diseases like AIDS have recently caused big problems, as well as very specific obviously bad politics in 'failing' countries. Sudan, Afghanistan, and Zimbabwe recently have such obviously bad politics that - in my book - they are not representitive of the global trend.

It would be interesting to see these stats for different countries like Brazil, Chile, Malaysia, Thailand and India. Is absolute poverty getting worse in these countries. If it is then I think that is indeed a shameful.


So let's compare InequalityIsIncreasing


The number of poor people is increasing because it is the poor that have the most children.

: This doesn't strike me as very plausible. But I'll try to find an argument against it. – PhilJones