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71% of the World's Population Survives on Less Than $10 a Day

Roisin Davis
Róisín Davis is a literary agent, writer, and editor based in New…
Roisin Davis

Lars Plougmann / CC BY 2.0

Global poverty has halved over the last decade, but a staggering 71% of the world’s population remains low-income or poor, living off $10 or less a day.

These are among the findings of a new Pew Research Center report that looked at changes in income for 111 countries between 2001 and 2011.

The report, “A Global Middle Class Is More Promise Than Reality,” states:

…though there was growth in the middle-income population from 2001 to 2011, the rise in prosperity was concentrated in certain regions of the globe, namely China, South America and Eastern Europe. The middle class barely expanded in India and Southeast Asia, Africa, and Central America.

Even those newly minted as middle class enjoy a standard of living that is modest by Western norms. As defined in this study, people who are middle income live on $10-20 a day, which translates to an annual income of $14,600 to $29,200 for a family of four. That range merely straddles the official poverty line in the United States—$23,021 for a family of four in 2011.

Perhaps more importantly from an international perspective, the gap in living standards between the world’s economically advanced countries and emerging and developing nations barely narrowed in the first decade of this century. In 2001, 91% of the world’s high-income people lived in North America and Europe; in 2011, the share was 87%.

Globally, there was little change in the share of people living at the higher ends of the income scale. As noted, only 16% of the global population lived on more than the middle-income level in 2011, up slightly from 14% in 2001. This comprises the 9% of the global population that was upper-middle income in 2011 and the 7% that was high income. Thus, stepping over the $20 daily threshold is still beyond the means of most of the global population.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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