The latest World Bank estimates suggest that the percentage of the developing world’s population living below $1.25 a day declined from 52% in 1981 to 22% in 2008. While this indicates that there is still a long way to go in poverty reduction, the progress is encouraging. Moreover, we now also appear to be in a much better position to make such statements. The numbers above, by my colleagues at the Department Research Group, are based on over 850 household surveys for nearly 130 developing countries, representing 90% of the population of the developing world. By contrast, they used only 22 surveys for 22 countries when the first such estimates were reported in the 1990 World Development Report.
One is always grateful to see attention paid to the quality and quantity of household data available to study poverty. It is a subject dear to my heart and to my colleagues in the Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS ) in the World Bank. In sub-Saharan Africa, as a recent Global Dashboard post titled “What do we really know about poverty and inequality?” by Claire Melamed points out, there is still a dearth of data, even after years of government effort and international support. But there are data -- in some countries lots of data -- so it’s worth highlighting what is there. Today I wanted to add some nuance to the discussion of income and assets raised by Claire and, probably more importantly, steer people to some new data that will, we hope, excite the most blasé of you out there.