A casual reader might be forgiven for being confused by the global conversation around poverty and inequality these days. On the one hand, there is relentless talk about rising inequality, and the ever-larger income shares captured by the top 1%. In the United States, this trend – which is very pronounced – is accompanied by falling wages at the bottom of the distribution, at least according to Figure 4 here. This seems to confirm the timeless adage that the rich are getting richer, while the poor keep getting poorer.
- shared prosperity
This blog is part of a series using data from World Development Indicators to explore progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and their associated targets. The new Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals 2017, published in April 2017, and the SDG Dashboard provide in-depth analyses of all 17 goals.
As Agriculture Economists who work on advancing the food and agriculture agenda, SDG 2 articulates much of our work in the Sustainable Development agenda and illustrates how food and agriculture are intertwined with poverty reduction. Goal 2 seeks to “End hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.”
Without making progress on Goal 2, we can’t achieve the Bank’s twin goals of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity.
But what does Goal 2 mean, exactly? On the surface, it might seem to be a matter of producing more food in a sustainable way. But a deeper dive into this SDG reveals that it is not quite that simple.
Equality of opportunity is a popular policy objective around the world. It is deeply embodied in the American Dream and has resonated with politicians ranging from Margaret Thatcher to Nelson Mandela. It is also connected to the World Bank’s goal of shared prosperity; individuals with low opportunities should have a chance of growing and prospering in life.
Editor’s Note: In May, the LAC Team for Statistical Development launched the #LACfeaturegraph blog contest, where participants were asked to use poverty, inequality or other welfare data from the LAC Equity Lab to come up with an original analysis and integrate it with a data visualization. We received numerous blog submissions and after carefully reading each blog, we have picked the winner. Here is the winning entry from Joaquín Muñoz from Chile.
Education has long been considered fundamental in paving a country’s road to development. It is an International Human Right, one of the eight Millennium Development Goals and seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, and a critical player in reducing poverty. Thus, government officials and development partners have renewed efforts to ensure access to primary and secondary education worldwide.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, a region that faces stark levels of inequality, educational programs have been designed and funded with the aim of guaranteeing equal opportunities to school access. For instance, while in 1990 primary school enrollment in the region was about 89.9 percent, by 2010 it had increased to 94.2 percent. In the same period, literacy rates progressed as well, increasing from 87.5 percent to 92.6 percent (The World Bank, 2017). Even though the difficulty of achieving universal access to education is daunting, the numbers show that the region is on the right track.
However, the figure below shows that even though there has been a significant increase in the total years of education between 2004 and 2014 among the region’s population, the top 60 percent and the bottom 40 percent have experienced unequal income gains. While both groups experienced an increase in years spent in school, the data suggest that the top 60 percent, which was already wealthier and longer-schooled, saw a greater increase in their median daily per capita income than the bottom 40 percent. This finding is consistent with other evidence that suggests that income returns to schooling differ across the wage distribution (Harmon, Oosterbeek and Walker, 2000).
Source: Author's graph using LAC Equity Lab tabulations of SEDLAC (CEDLAS and the World Bank).
Are you a student or a young professional passionate about development and data? Do you care about poverty and inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)? Then this blog contest is for you.
Regular readers of this space will know by now that we have run a periodic blog series - #LACfeaturegraph – that highlighted a particular data point from our LAC Equity Lab data portal and analyzed critical development issues across the region. Now this is your chance to be a part of this effort. You, too, can use the data from the LAC Equity Lab and come up with a blog entry that addresses some of these issues. Through the contest, we are looking for original, well-written posts whereby participants can share their perspective on poverty and equity issues in the LAC region and also recommend plausible public policy interventions.
The winner of this blog contest will get his or her entry published as part of the #LACfeaturegraph series. The winner will also have the opportunity to visit the World Bank Group headquarters in Washington D.C. at a later date to participate in a poverty event. Blog entries will be accepted for a month – from May 15, 2017 to June 15, 2017.
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As we worked on a new World Bank flagship report that provides the latest and most accurate estimates on trends in global poverty and shared prosperity, it became apparent as to what we wanted for the title - Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016: Taking on Inequality.
Because in our minds it became clear that inequality is becoming increasingly critical to meeting the World Bank’s goals of ending poverty and sharing prosperity. In fact, we find that tackling inequality will make or break the goal of ending poverty by 2030.
Figure 1: Poverty and inequality in rural China