One Stunning Stat Shows Just How Bad Worldwide Poverty Has Become

One Stunning Stat Shows Just How Bad Worldwide Poverty Has Become

The world's 85 richest people have as much wealth as the world's 3.5 billion poorest.

This statistic was recently released in United Nations report that uses Oxfam figures. It's also a huge wake-up call for anyone who doesn't consider income inequality a major issue in global politics.

The Human Development Report goes deeper, saying that 1.2 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day, and 1.5 billion people live in "multidimensional poverty," a measure that takes income into account, but also includes factors like health, education and standards of living.


Image Credit: UN Human Development Report

Country by country: The report includes rankings of countries via the human development index, which considers income, education and life expectancy. The U.S. makes the top 5 list, coming in after Norway, Australia, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

A modified ranking that includes income inequality in the equation, though, drops the U.S. all the way to number 28. This is mostly because the bottom 90% of Americans earn less than half the country's income.


Image Credit: Dorsey Shaw via Pew

Niger, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Chad and Sierra Leone make up the bottom five of both the human development index and the inequality-adjusted index.

What can be done: The United Nations uses the report to call for universal access to social programs, including health and education. The report also highlights unemployment insurance and pensions as ways to keep citizens afloat despite high unemployment rates.

"If you invest in people, if you upgrade your infrastructure and increase the choices available to all, you will have a more stable society," the lead author, Khalid Malik, told CBC News.

Employment security is also a big theme in the report, which notes that 1.5 billion workers — nearly half the world's total — take part in "informal or precarious employment." That's a contributing factor to the 842 million people worldwide who suffer from chronic hunger.

"People with limited core capabilities, such as in education and health, are less able to easily live lives they value," the report says. "And their choices may be restricted or held back by social barriers and other exclusionary practices. Together, limited capabilities and restricted choices prevent them from coping with threats."

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Matt Connolly

Matt has written for Mother Jones, the Washington Examiner and Chicago Public Radio among many others. He's a resident of Washington, D.C., but much like Bruce Springsteen and pork roll he is a product of New Jersey.

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