QUANTIFYING ABSOLUTE POVERTY IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD

Authors


  • Note: This paper is based on background research done in the preparation of the World Bank's World Development Report 1990. Its contents should not, however, be attributed to the World Bank, or any affiliated organization. The authors are grateful to the Review's referees for their helpful comments.

Abstract

We estimate that in 1985 about one in five persons in the developing world lived in poverty, judged by the standards of the poorest countries. This rises to one in three at a common, more generous, poverty line. The aggregate consumption short-fall of the poorest fifth is about one half of one percent of world consumption, while that of the poorest third is a further one percent. The shape of the distribution of consumption suggests that aggregate poverty would fall fairly rapidly if moderate growth in average consumption levels can be sustained, and the poor share at least proportionally in that growth. However, it would take only small adverse shifts in the world distribution of consumption to eliminate the gains to the poor from growth.

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