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When my parents were born, 7 in 10 people lived in extreme poverty. Today it’s 1 in 10

Ana Navarro, 33, plays with a giant inflatable balloon of planet Earth as she takes to the streets during a protest march marking the first year anniversary of Spain's Indignados (Indignant) movement in Malaga, southern Spain May 12, 2012. Dubbed "los indignados" (the indignant), the movement which spawned similar protests worldwide prepare to occupy Spanish streets for the whole weekend on the first anniversary of the 15M movement in a renewed protest over government austerity measures, banks, politicians, economic recession, and the highest unemployment in the eurozone. REUTERS/Jon Nazca (SPAIN - Tags: ANNIVERSARY CIVIL UNREST POLITICS SOCIETY BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT) - RTR31Z15
Reuters/Jon Nazca
Things are looking up.
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Sometimes when you spend 11 hours watching your country’s politicians waste valuable time on a misguided vendetta instead of doing something—anything—that might actually help the world, you need a reminder that, hey, somewhere on the planet, there’s actual progress being made on behalf of billions of people:

When my parents were born in the 1950s, 70% of people around the world lived on less than $2 a day. My folks, luckily for them, were born in the United States, just in time for the post-World War II explosion of prosperity. But people in my generation—and my children’s generation—will rely less on the birth lottery as an indicator of their future chances in life. Now, just one in 10 people around the world lives in extreme poverty* (now defined by the World Bank as less than $1.90 a day).

Now, you may say that’s a low bar, and there’s some truth to that. This is a measure of abject poverty, not moderate prosperity; there’s still plenty of work to be done to lift the world’s poor into more sustainable financial situations. But it is a sign that for all the problems in the world today, our ad hoc global system of trade and production has delivered meaningful economic gains almost everywhere.

*The data in the chart above comes from a project by Max Roser, an Oxford economist who is assembling a collection of empirical measures about the state of the world.


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