Image: Martin Baxter
A few weeks ago the World Bank changed the international poverty line from $1.25 to $1.90 per day. Normally, changes to the poverty line slide by without attracting much attention, but for some reason this time people got excited. At first glance, it looks as if the bank has finally admitted that the old line was just too low, and has raised it to a more meaningful standard.
But the reality is closer to the opposite. The World Bank didn’t raise the poverty line at all – it simply “rebased” the old line to adjust for depreciation in the purchasing power of the dollar. The bank claims that the new poverty line is roughly equivalent to the old line, in real terms. But in effect it is actually significantly lower, and therefore makes it seem as though there are fewer poor people than before.
This is why the bank has suddenly announced that the global poverty headcount has decreased by 100 million people overnight, and that the poverty reduction trend has been declining more rapidly than we used to believe.
Read the full story: Could you live on $1.90 a day? That’s the international poverty line
We can go on playing this game where we move the goal posts, claim victory, and throw a party. But there’s only so much field, and the farther we push the posts, the more obvious that’ll become. Or we could just be honest now, and dedicate ourselves to helping the billions of people mired in deprivation. If you ask me, I’d say our humanity demands it.