Learn how the World Bank Group is helping countries with COVID-19 (coronavirus). Find Out

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  • In 2017, an estimated 9.2 percent of the global population still lived below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day, which is based on poverty lines in  some of the poorest economies in the world. This amounts to 689 million extreme poor, 52 million fewer than in 2015. Now, the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has reversed the gains in global poverty for the first time in a generation. By most estimates, this reversal is expected to push between 88 million and 115 million more people into extreme poverty in 2020. Even though these numbers are already unacceptably high, the nowcasts of global poverty in 2020 and forecasts to 2030 raise additional concerns.

    To better understand whether the world is on track to end extreme poverty, and how individual countries are faring, we must regularly measure progress. Poverty measurement and analysis has been a key aspect of the World 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 do not. Poverty measurement also helps developing countries gauge program effectiveness and guide their development strategy in a rapidly changing economic environment.

    Last Updated: Oct 07, 2020

  • Measuring poverty and communicating poverty reduction results is a long-standing priority for the World Bank. In 2015, we set up a Commission on Global Poverty to provide recommendations on how to more comprehensively measure and monitor global poverty. The Commission, led by the late Sir Anthony Atkinson, provided a set of 21 recommendations including broadening the scope of poverty measurements to include non-monetary measures such as educational outcomes and access to health care; a suggestion to introduce a societal headcount measure of global poverty; as well as a recommendation to publish a global profile of the poor.

    The World Bank Group has committed to adopting most of these recommendations. In 2017, it introduced two complementary global poverty lines, which can be used as a benchmark for countries across the world whose level of development makes the International Poverty Line — $1.90 per day — of little use. The $3.20 and $5.50 per person, per day poverty lines complement, not replace, the International Poverty Line.

    In 2018, the World Bank report Piecing Together the Poverty Puzzle broadened the ways the World Bank defines and measures poverty by:

    • Presenting a new measure of societal poverty, integrating the absolute concept of extreme poverty and a notion of relative poverty reflecting needs across countries;
    • Introducing a multi-dimensional poverty measure that is anchored on household consumption and the $1.90 international poverty line but broadens the measure by including information on access to education and utilities;
    • Investigating the differences in poverty within households, including by age and gender.  

    The World Bank Group produces twice-yearly two-page country Poverty and Equity Briefs that highlight poverty, shared prosperity, and inequality trends, and provide the country context of the poverty story. In September 2019, the country poverty briefs also began to report data on multidimensional poverty indicators for over 115 countries.

    In 2020, the coronavirus (COVID-19) posed a new challenge to measuring the impact of the devastating pandemic, particularly on the poor and vulnerable. Surveys based on face-to-face interviews are hindered by social distancing protocols and limitations on mobility. Policymakers need timely and relevant information on the impacts of the crisis as well as the effectiveness of their policy measures to save lives and support livelihoods. World Bank-supported phone surveys to monitor the impacts of COVID-19 on households and individuals are currently under preparation or being implemented in more than 100 countries across all developing regions. This includes large-scale regional surveys in South Asia and Latin America targeting 42,000 and 13,000 households, respectively. Survey rounds will be conducted every 4-6 weeks over a period of 12 months.

    We have also been working with country statistical offices to build local capacity and to help nations develop and implement their poverty surveys and to assess results. 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. But in many countries efforts to fight poverty have been constrained by lack of data. With 29 countries having no poverty data between 2002 and 2012, addressing huge data gaps has been our priority.

    In October 2015, we pledged to work with developing countries and international partners to ensure that the 78 poorest countries in the world have household-level surveys every three years, with the first round to be completed by 2020. From 2015 to 2018, 42 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa conducted household surveys, and between 2018 and 2020, approximately 23 countries have one planned. We are also developing new, shorter surveys that complement and fill in gaps between traditional surveys.

    On monitoring project impacts, the Bank Group has two main tools to improve and measure results in real-time: Survey of Well-being via Instant Frequent Tracking (SWIFT) and Iterative Beneficiary Monitoring (IBM). These tools rely on mobile technology, big and small data to produce information on specific project results and on consumption/income of project beneficiaries. IBM is currently mainstreamed in more than 40 operations in FCV and non-FCV contexts. SWIFT plays an important role in linking poverty and sector-specific indicators through affordable data collection and analysis.

    Together with our country clients, we are now developing and testing high-frequency survey methods that rely on mobile technology or prediction methods. Working with national statistical offices and NGOs, our Listening to Africa initiative is piloting the use of mobile phones to regularly collect information on living conditions in six African countries.

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

    Last Updated: Oct 07, 2020

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

    By combining population census and household surveys, we worked with the statistical office of the Republic of Serbia to develop a set of poverty maps that show variability in welfare across the country and estimate the poverty rates for small geographic areas, such as districts and municipalities. Similar efforts were carried out in Croatia.

    Poverty in Tajikistan is seasonal and is linked to farm work and remittances. Given this nuance, the country introduced a new approach to assess and measure poverty that is based on international best-practices and relies on quarterly household budget survey. The new measure helps the government report on poverty both on a quarterly and annual basis.

    Interactive poverty maps are a useful tool to visualize and compare poverty rates across geographic areas. Using three different datasets, the World Bank rolled out the interactive poverty maps for Bangladesh, which explore and visualize socioeconomic data at the district and the sub-district levels of the country. The World Bank has also produced a spatial database of Afghanistan, which visualizes data from reliable sources at the province and district level. And the World Bank partnered with the National Statistics and Information Authority of Afghanistan to produce the first set of poverty maps for Afghanistan for the provinces of Kabul and Herat.

    Decades of civil war and political fragmentation have made Somalia one of the poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. To better understand the impact of economic hardship on the lives of ordinary Somalis, the World Bank, together with the Somali statistical authorities created the Somali High Frequency survey and published the recent Somali Poverty and Vulnerability Assessment, which analyzes data and provides valuable insights about the underlying causes of poverty and the best strategies for fighting it. Voluntary video testimonials of Somalis were recorded and complemented the quantitative date to further zoom into their lives.

    To fill the lack of reliable data in South Sudan, we have used an innovative questionnaire design for a high frequency survey to document the livelihoods, consumption patterns and perceptions of the people. In addition, we have started to collect video testimonials from people to capture the situation on the ground. 

    Last Updated: Oct 07, 2020