The poorest are being left behind
At our 30th Anniversary Conference (/node/7968) we took the chance to interview Martin Ravallion of Georgetown University--we asked him to discuss his recent work on extreme poverty, and to highlight what he believes the major challenges in this area will be over the next thirty years. This year Ravallion will deliver the WIDER Annual Lecture in Stockholm on 23 March (/node/14127); so if you'll be in Stockholm then you can sign up here (https://www2.wider.unu.edu/crm/content/registrational20) to attend. Or watch the webcast on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/user/UNUWIDER/) and discuss the lecture using #AL20 (https://twitter.com/search?q=%23AL20&src=typd).
Inadequate measures of poverty
Ravallion suggests that the approach we have taken to measuring poverty over the past thirty years has failed to adequately take into account, or missed entirely, what has been happening to the poorest of the poor. Over the past three decades we've seen a dramatic reduction of poverty globally, and this trend has accelerated since the turn of the millennium. However what we are not seeing is a lifting of the poverty floor as a whole. The living conditions of the world's most disadvantaged remain unchanged. The poorest are being left behind.
A (very) brief history of poverty reduction
In the mid-19th century poverty levels in what we now consider the developed world were similar to what we see in Africa today. However, Ravallion points out that the process of escaping poverty for the rich countries of today was quite different from how it happens in the current developing world.
In fact, Ravallion states, the developing world today is reducing the number of poor people at a much faster rate than the developed world managed. But during its time of rapid poverty reduction the developed world was much more successful at raising the poverty floor, in particular through social policies.
Social protection and transfers are only part of the story
Ravallion acknowledges that the developing world still faces a big challenge in developing social policies that are fully inclusive and reach the poorest members of society. However, he highlights that poverty reduction is not just about nicely targeted cash transfer programmes. They can be important for poverty reduction but there is a broader set of policies required to reduce poverty, as evidenced by the case of China.
China has made huge progress in reducing poverty