Maura K. Leary

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Measuring Poverty Overview

In April 2013, the World Bank set a new goal to end extreme poverty in a generation. Our target is to have no more than 3 percent of the world’s population subsisting on just $1.25 a day by 2030. There are still 1.2 billion people who live in extreme poverty so meeting the target will be a monumental task.

To know whether the Bank and our client countries are on track to end extreme poverty, we must regularly measure progress.

In coming years, the collection and analysis of reliable and comparable poverty data will take on added importance as poverty levels are watched more closely by everyone with a stake in development.

Good news is, we are building on the work we already do or have completed. Poverty measurement and analysis has been a key aspect of the Bank’s mission for years, as is our work to share knowledge and methods for how to measure poverty more accurately and more frequently.

By measuring poverty we learn which poverty reduction strategies work, and which ones do not. Poverty measurement also helps developing countries gauge program effectiveness and guide their development strategy in a rapidly changing economic environment.








Measuring poverty and communicating poverty reduction results is a long-standing priority for the World Bank. Our experts work hand-in-hand with country statistical offices to build local capacity and to help nations develop and implement their poverty surveys and to assess results.

Much of our poverty measurement work centers around improving household surveys and survey methodology to generate more reliable statistics. 

Official global, regional and country poverty results are based on data that the Bank compiles and disseminates through online portals such as PovcalNet and the Poverty & Equity data portal.

We are also developing new and shorter surveys that complement and fill in gaps between traditional surveys. Historically, household surveys – which are used to measure poverty – have been done every three, five or even 10 years, depending on country resources and capacity.

Together with our country clients we are now developing and testing high-frequency survey methods that rely on mobile technology or prediction methods. These methods are generating considerable interest in developing countries that want to conduct surveys more often.


The World Bank's advisory and technical support has led to survey improvements in many countries. Here are a few examples:

  • In 2011, the government of Bangladesh was able to produce its poverty statistics in record time, thanks to collaboration between the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and the Bank. The household survey period spanned February 2010 to January 2011, during which the statistics office used, for the first time, the internet to transfer data from the field to headquarters in Dhaka. The office also conducted field testing and several rounds of training to make the process as efficient and accurate as possible. Going forward, Bangladesh plans to conduct more frequent poverty surveys.
  • After running into technical problems with its household survey data for 2005, Peru’s National Statistics Office requested technical assistance from the Bank. As part of the project, the Bank helped establish a multi-institutional advisory committee to solve the methodological challenges. At the end of the first phase of the project, poverty estimates were published for Peru for the first time in three years.
  • Following years of debate on how to best measure poverty, a local team from the Dominican Republic, supported by the Bank, developed a new poverty measurement methodology. This methodology will help the country conduct reliable and regular surveys and poverty analyses.
  • The country of Bhutan has a clearer view of the geographic distribution of poverty within its borders after it created a poverty map with assistance from staff at the Bank. The survey helps the government identify where poverty exists locally, and to more effectively target assistance to areas that lag behind.


Around The Bank Group

Find out what the Bank Group's branches are doing on Measuring Poverty.