46 World Poverty Statistics

Almost half of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty. More than 3 billion people are currently living on the equivalent of $2.50 per day. More than 80% of the world’s population is living on the equivalent of less than 10%. For a vast majority of people, the income differentials are ever-widening as well.

As the world poverty statistics show, much of what we see as poverty has been artificially created by our own social structures. Whether it’s from government allocation, free market systems, or sheer greed, people have little access to wealth or resources because of their status instead of their ability.

This is because the richest 20% of the population accounts for 75% of the world’s total income. Because of these man-made structures, the statistics that come out of poverty can be quite bothersome, considering it is in our power to begin changing these facts so more people can live a better life.

What Does World Poverty Look Like Today?

  • Almost 22,000 children are dying every day because of poverty. According to UNICEF, many of these children are far removed from the rest of the world because they live in some of the poorest villages on the planet, far away from where the wealthiest in the world live and work.
  • 1 in 4 children in developing countries are believed to be underweight or stunted. Most of the children who fit this definition live in either sub-Saharan African or South Asia.
  • The poorest 40% of the planet accounts for just 5% of total global income.
  • 72 million children in the developing world were not attending school in 2005. 57% of these children are girls and the numbers are considered to be under-reported.
  • 1 billion people are believed to be unable to read a book or perform a simple task, like being able to sign their name.
  • Less than 1% of the amount the world spends on weapons is what is required to put every child into a meaningful school program, but is has yet to happen.
  • Every year, more than 350 million cases of malaria are reported, with 1 million fatalities, due to a lack of protection resources. Africa accounts for 80% of the world’s malaria victims and 90% of malaria fatalities.
  • An estimated 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, with 3 million people dying each year from the disease.
  • The vast majority of those who are poor around the world live in rural areas, are poorly education, and are generally employed in some form of agricultural job.
  • More than half of the world’s poor are under the age of 18.
  • 25% of households today are living without electricity.
  • 3 million children are believed to die from malnutrition every year. That’s the equivalent of every child under the age of 4 dying in one year in the states of Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia right now.

The bottom line is this: when people are poor, then they are hungry. That hunger creates a cycle which continues to encourage poverty. The #1 cause of death in the world today isn’t from war or disease. It is from hunger. Hunger kills more people than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.

This means the most common cause for death in the world today is a completely preventable cause. It is why the artificial structures which cause poverty must come down. It isn’t up to those who are in poverty to find a way out of it. It is the responsibility of the developed world, the people who are consuming the vast majority of the world’s resources, to find distribution models that can begin to equalize food consumption.

According to Oxfam, the world already produces about 17% more food than is needed for every person on the planet to be able to eat a healthy diet. That means we are our own worst enemy when it comes to global poverty.

Poverty’s Effects on Women and Children

  • 60% of the world’s hungry are women.
  • Half of the women who are pregnant in the developing world lack access to proper maternal care. This creates nearly 300,000 maternal deaths on an annual basis.
  • In the developing world, 1 in 6 children are bore at an improper birth weight.
  • Hunger-related diseases will cause the death of a child on an average of every 10 seconds right now.
  • Half of the people living with HIV/AIDS right now are women, with 88% of children and 60% of women diagnosed with this disease living in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • 6.3 million children die every year from mostly preventable health issues, including diarrhea and pneumonia.
  • Half of the world’s hungriest people are farming families, providing food resources to others around the world.

Those who are impacted by poverty the most tend to be children. This is especially true when it comes to hunger and disease that occurs because of a lack of resources. Even if a child is able to live beyond the age of 5, where in some countries the 0-5 death rate is above 10%, their future success is limited because of stunting and malnutrition.

Women are also in poverty more often simply because they have a secondary status in many societies. The men go off to work and the women are left with virtually nothing until the men return. Trying to take care of a family, find clean water, and meet basic needs with nothing and still be able to find success despite poverty – that shows how much of an untapped resource women are for many developing nations.

What could stop poverty in its tracks? Gender equality.

How Does a Lack of Water Contribute to Global Poverty?

  • About 67% of the people in the world today who lack access to clean water are surviving on less than $2 per day. About 33% of those who lack access to clean water are living on less than $1 per day. That’s a total of nearly 1 billion people.
  • Piped water into households is at a rate of just 25% for the world’s poorest populations, but at a rate of 85% for the world’s richest populations.
  • 1.1 billion people in the developing world have an inadequate access to water, with basic sanitation services lacking for nearly 3 billion people.
  • In the US and UK, the average person uses more than 50 liters of water every day just by flushing toilets. In comparison, nearly 2 billion people who have access to a water source within 1 kilometer of their home consume just 20 liters of water per day.
  • The average rate of water consumption in the United States, where each person consumes an average of 600 liters of water per day.
  • Children lose more than 443 million school days per year in the developing world because of water-related illnesses.
  • About 50% of people at any given time in the developing world are suffering from at least one health problem that can be attributed to water or sanitation deficits.
  • Diarrhea that is caused by poor quality drinking water, sanitation, or hygiene is believed to kill over 840,000 people every year. That equates to about 2,300 people per day. Imagine having everyone in a small town just die one day – that’s what a lack of clean water does.

Thankfully, we are finding ways to make clean water access more available to the developed world. Products like LifeStraw, which can pass stringent EPA standards for quality, have the ability to produce 1,000 liters of safe water to drink per filter, which is enough to provide one person with the drinking water they need for an entire year.

In 2011, more than 1 million households received a donation of LifeStraws to filter water from local sources, which immediately eliminated more than 99% of the bacteria and parasites that were effective health.

This one simple donation meant that 90% of the households in Kenya could immediately have access to clean water for several months. Many filters can last for at least a decade, allowing for continued use.

Why World Poverty Should Shock You

  • There are more people in the world today that have access to a mobile phone than having access to a toilet.
  • More than $1 trillion is diverted from developing countries each year because of fraudulent corporate activities, reinforcing the artificial poverty that already exists.
  • 33% of the African continent lacks access to clean water resources on a consistent basis.
  • The Dallas Cowboys use more electricity in their stadium to provide support for NFL games and administrative activities than entire nations use on a daily basis.
  • The United States spends less than 1% of its annual budget to fight the conditions that are caused by extreme poverty.
  • More than 1 billion metric tons of food that is produced each year is either lost or wasted in some way.
  • Despite having more than 12% of the total global population, the African continent uses just 3% of the world’s energy resources. In comparison, the United States consumes between 19-25% of the world’s energy resources annually.
  • There are currently 26 countries that have an extreme poverty rate that is above 40%. Only two of those countries are outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
  • When someone is living in extreme poverty, they spend up to 80% of their income on food.
  • The value of African exports for oil, minerals, and gas are eight times the value of international aid it receives on an annual basis.
  • Three-quarters of the world’s food supply comes from just 5 animal species and 12 plants.
  • Just two governments on the African continent publish financial information that is detailed enough to determine how annual revenues are being spent.
  • In the United States, more money is spent on Halloween candy every year than the entire world spends to combat the effects of malaria.

Let’s say you are able to earn $1,000 per week. That’s $4,000 per month, which would put your income right near the US household income average right now. What would you spend all of that money on? Rent? Your mortgage? A car payment? Now imagine that you’ve got to spend $800 per week on food at the grocery store. That means you’ve only got $800 left over for your other needs.

$800 in the United States will buy you a lot of food. That’s the monthly grocery budget for families that have 6-8 members living in their household, which is evidence of the wealth inequality that exists in the world today.

The information is not intended to cause guilt, but to open up an understanding to the struggle that the vast majority of the world faces every day just to get something to eat. When all of your money goes to food, that leaves little for other necessities, such as clothing, medicine, or a safe place to live. These are things that the wealthiest 20% often takes for granted, but for the poorest 20%, it’s the difference between life and death.

This is why the world poverty statistics are so important.

World Poverty Statistics Are Improving

  • In 2013, 10.7% of the world’s population lived on less than $1.90 per day, which is down 35% from figures released by World Bank in 1990.
  • This means nearly 1 billion fewer people are living in extreme poverty conditions in less than a generation.
  • Improvements have been uneven in terms of fighting global poverty. In sub-Saharan African, only 4 million fewer people are living in extreme poverty. More people in this region are in extreme poverty than any other place in the world combined.
  • It would only take $60 billion of aid every year to end extreme global poverty. To put this in perspective, that’s about 10% of what the US budget happens to be for defense. Or to put it in another way, that’s less than 25% of the income for the top 100 wealthiest people in the world today.
  • More people today have access to life-saving treatments. In 2002, just 300,000 people in the developing world had access to HIV/AIDS treatments. Today that figure is closer to 13 million people.
  • Children that are born to mothers who have the ability to read are 50% more likely to survive beyond the age of 5.

It is encouraging to know that the world poverty statistics are improving. Some improvements are seeing double-digit percentages and that’s a very good thing. Yet we cannot just sit back and take a break from the fight against poverty – and especially against artificial poverty. Thousands of children are dying every day from a lack of food, clean water, or medical care.

When we can distribute resources more evenly, we can start to make a difference. When we can provide consistent clean water access and sanitation technologies, we can improve the daily conditions that households in poverty face. In some areas, the simple provision of a mosquito net is enough to dramatically lower malaria rates.

The amount of money it takes to make a difference is very negligible. If the world’s governments aren’t willing to spend what it takes to fight poverty, then it is up to us. We are all human. We all deserve the same opportunities to thrive instead of survive. With world poverty statistics like these inspiring us, we will make a difference today, tomorrow, and well into the future.

Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.