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: Apr 16, 2021