Skip to Main Navigation

Smackdown Debate: How Credible Are the World Bank’s Global Poverty Estimates? How Can They Be Improved?

March 5, 2019

J B1-080

  • In 1979, World Bank President Robert McNamara was shocked to see that data on poverty and inequality were only available for 17 developing countries. In response, McNamara pushed the Bank to become a leader in the collection, collation, and analysis of these data. With the creation of the “dollar-a-day” international poverty line in the 1990 World Development Report, the Bank established itself as the global standard setter for poverty measurement. In 2016, the Bank convened the Atkinson Commission on Global Poverty to ensure its approach continued to reflect the best available expertise on the issue.

    But the Bank’s approach has not been without critics. Given the difficult methodological questions and the large stakes involved, scholars and practitioners have a variety of views on how global poverty should be measured. Join us for a lively debate on this question on March 5, where Francisco Ferreira, who oversees the poverty and inequality team in the Development Research Group, will engage with Professor Sanjay Reddy, one of the most prominent and vocal external critics of the Bank’s approach.



    Francisco Ferreira

    Acting Director of Research

    Francisco H. G. Ferreira is Acting Director of Research and also a Senior Adviser in the World Bank’s Development Research Group, where he oversees the Bank’s research programs on poverty and inequality. He was formerly the Bank’s Chief Economist for the Africa Region, and has also served as Deputy Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean, and as co-Director of the World Development Report 2006, on Equity and Development. Francisco is also a non-resident Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA, Bonn), and has published widely in the fields of poverty and inequality in developing countries.


    Sanjay Reddy

    Associate Professor, The New School for Social Research

    Sanjay G. Reddy is an Associate Professor of Economics at The New School for Social Research. He was recently a member of the Independent High-level Team of Advisers to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations on the longer-term positioning of the UN Development System (in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development). He is one of the co-founders and team leaders of the Global Consumption and Income Project.



    Shanta Devarajan

    Senior Director for Development Economics

    Shanta Devarajan is the Senior Director for Development Economics (DEC) at the World Bank. Previously, he was the Chief Economist of the World Bank’s Middle East and North Africa Region. Since joining the World Bank in 1991, he has been a Principal Economist and Research Manager for Public Economics in the Development Research Group, and the Chief Economist of the Human Development Network, the South Asia Region and Africa Region. He was a director of the World Development Report 2004, Making Services Work for Poor People.


Watch a Recording