How should poverty be measured?

    The number of poor people around the globe is perhaps among the most essential statistics in international development. Arriving at the most accurate and inclusive figure, however, is quite a challenge.

    There are at least two ways of measuring how many poor people there are in the world. One is by using the World Bank’s international poverty line of $1.25 per person per day, which is based on the average national poverty lines of the world’s 15 poorest countries.  Some institutions also peg this international poverty line at $2 per person per day, which is the average for all developing countries.

    A second way of measuring the number of poor people is by using poverty lines as defined by specific countries. Ugo Gentillini of the World Food Program and Andy Sumner of the Institute of Development Studies explain the relevance of this second method in a guest post on Oxfam GB’s From Poverty to Power blog:

    • Nationally defined poverty is more relevant to local policymakers.

    • Expressing poverty in a nation’s own terms implies greater participation of national and local actors in defining poverty.

    • The use of nationally defined poverty lines recognizes that there are poor people everywhere. This, in turn, could frame poverty as a universal issue.

    Which method do you think is more relevant to today’s global scene? Have your say, leave a comment below.

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    About the author

    • Ivy Mungcal

      As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.