The latest global numbers
The World Bank just updated its estimates of the number of people
living in poverty to 1996 and 1998, using 1993 Purchasing Power
Parities (PPP) and household survey data (see Table 1 and Table 2).
The figures for 1998 are preliminary estimates, based on the most
recent survey data available (only a few surveys are available for
1997 and 1998) and actual or estimated growth rates in real private
consumption per capita; they will be firmed up as new survey data
What story do the new figures tell? First, both the share of
population and the number of people living on less than a dollar a
day declined substantially in the mid-1990s, after increasing in the
early 1990s. The same is true for those living below two dollars a
day. But the numbers rose again in the aftermath of the global
The declines in the numbers are almost exclusively due to a
reduction in the number of poor people in East Asia, most notably in China. But progress
was partly reversed by the crisis, and stalled in China.
In South Asia, the incidence of poverty (the share of the population living in poverty) did
decline moderately through the 1990s but not sufficiently to reduce the absolute number of
poor. The actual number of poor people in the region has been rising steadily since 1987.
In Africa, the share declined and the numbers increased as well. The new estimates indicate
that Africa is now the region with the largest share of people living below $1/day.
In Latin America the share of poor people remained roughly constant over the period, and
the numbers increased.
In the countries of the former Soviet bloc, poverty rose markedly-both the share and the
Table 1. Population living on less than $1 per day and headcount index in developing
and transitional economies, selected years, 1987-1998
Population covered by
at least one survey
Number of people living on less than $1 a day