The Quick War on Poverty ResultsIn the last 20 years, governments, firms, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and leaders of industry’s efforts have helped to dramatically reduce the number of people living beneath $2 per day. Between 2001 and 2011 alone, the war on poverty resulted in reducing the percentage of the population affected from 29 percent to 15 percent.

As a result, the war on poverty has led to an expanding middle class, with people living off of less than $10 a day falling from 79 percent to 71 percent. Although the shift was not enormous, it still factors into an increase in prosperity for millions.

But the war of poverty results in more than monetary gains. Since 1990, extreme poverty has also been cleaved by more than half, elevating the lives of more than a billion people, according to the United Nations. Here are five other life-changing impacts that the war on poverty has produced.

Between 2000 and 2012:
Approximately 3.3 million deaths from malaria were avoided because of the substantial expansion of malaria interventions funded by international aid. Increased rates of measles immunization have also prevented an estimated 14 million deaths. In addition, since 1995, an estimated 22 million lives have been saved from tuberculosis.

More than 2.3 billion people have gained access to an improved source of drinking water. This improvement allows communities to spend less time acquiring water and give more time to poverty reducing activities, such as working or attending school.

The number of children dying under the age of five has almost been halved, dropping from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births to 48 per 1,000 live births. The child survival rates have also improved. Between 2005 and 2012, the yearly rate of reduction in child mortality was more than three times faster than between 1990 and 1995.

Almost 2 billion people gained access to an improved sanitation facility, preventing communicable diseases and contamination of water sources.

An estimated 90 percent of primary school-aged children are enrolled in school, increasing their chances at breaking the poverty cycle in impoverished communities. The gender disparity gap of boys to girls enrolled in school has also shrunk significantly.

According to the U.N., for the first time in human history, the ability to strike down extreme poverty is within reach.

Claire Colby

Sources: Bloomberg View, UN 1, UN 2
Photo: Flickr

war impacts the poor
The introduction of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) marked a deadline: the world has 15 years to eradicate global poverty. However, in order to achieve this goal, the causes of global poverty must be carefully analyzed. One such factor is how war impacts those who are living in poverty.

Afghanistan, Iran, Sub-Saharan Africa, Syria and others continue to be plagued with war and violence, and many individuals fall into what is known as a “poverty trap.” While peaceful countries are escaping poverty and violence, corrupt government leadership often leads to war which pushes societies into poverty.

Researchers from Stanford University studied the correlation between war and poverty and found four criteria that explain how war affects the poor.


Statistical research on poverty and conflict suggests that countries within the 50th percentile for income have a 7-11 percent risk of experiencing civil conflict. On the other hand, countries within the 10th percentile have a risk that rises to 15-18 percent.

For example, according to the World Bank, the Middle East has experienced a 30 percent decrease in GDP per capita since 1999. According to Stanford’s research, a 1 percent increase in GDP growth could reduce the risk of internal conflict by roughly 1 percent.

Large Youth Population

Almost 60 percent of the world’s poor are under the age of 25. With high youth populations, research shows that parents have more children in developing countries to cope with the lack of environmental resources in impoverished areas.

“[Long-term] demographic and economic data indicate that high fertility raises absolute levels of poverty by slowing economic growth, reducing the poverty reduction that growth would have helped deliver, and skewing the distribution of consumption against the poor,” The UN Population Fund reports.

Poor Education Systems

Compared to the national secondary school net enrollment of 92 percent between 2000 and 2004, developing countries had a mere 30 percent secondary school enrollment. By increasing schools’ enrollment by 10 percent, the average risk of conflict can drop 3 percent.

Dependence on Natural Resources

Natural resource dependence has been linked to both rebellion and a weak government. Previous research by Stanford University showed that only high-value, easily extracted resources including agriculture and diamonds further increase the likelihood of war.

Thus, from understanding these four criteria, it is clear that global leaders will have to collaborate and find solutions for people who are trapped in poverty due to war.

Alexandra Korman

Sources: The Brookings Institution, The Economist
Photo: Rescue.Org

In his State of the Union Address 50 years ago, Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “War on Poverty,” joining the ranks of other war-dominated rhetoric such as the most recent endless war on terror and the ever-elusive war on drugs. Has the war on poverty made significant progress or has it turned into a stalemate like the other United States preemptive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Johnson’s efforts to eradicate poverty in America included programs such as Head Start, Food Stamps, Medicaid and Job Corps, some of which were included in the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which strengthened overall efforts to further policies that eliminate poverty, expand educational opportunities and provide health services for those in need.

While there continue to be debates over whether Johnson’s initiatives were a success or a total disaster, they nonetheless serve as an appropriate frame of reference to the current poverty-reducing legislation that exists today.

‘Half in Ten Act’

One such legislation is the bill H.R. 2182, ‘The Half in Ten Act,’ that would, if successful, cut poverty in 10 years, with the long-term goal being the total eradication of poverty in America. Senator Barbara Lee provides tangible solutions to end poverty, such as investing in job creation and training, implementing anti-poverty programs and early childhood education and providing quality college education, all of which are included in the Act. This Act coincides with U.S. President Barack Obama’s statements addressing poverty in his recent budget proposal.

The Half in Ten campaign has four main goals: create good jobs, promote economic security, strengthen families and cut poverty in half in 10 years. It is a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the Coalition on Human Needs and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Small Steps Forward

While the war-based rhetoric is consequential in itself and implies that there will be a loser and a winner in the war on poverty, the declaration of the war on poverty nonetheless sets the stage for national discourse regarding poverty reducing legislation.

A recent poll conducted by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, revealed that Americans want more programs to combat poverty. Most Americans agreed with the statement “most people living in poverty are decent people who are working hard to make ends meet in a difficult economy” and nearly as many agreed that “the primary reason so many people are living in poverty today is that our economy is failing to produce enough jobs that pay decent wages.”

While chairman Paul Ryan has recently dubbed the War on Poverty to be ineffective and a complete failure, it nonetheless pushed Americans in the right direction to confront global poverty and the institutions that exacerbate already harsh living conditions in the developing world. Rather than dismissing the opposition simply because of their ideological views, it is more useful to analyze the long-term trends in poverty.

In 2013, a Columbia study found that the poverty rate fell from 26 percent in 1967 to 16 percent in 2012, proving that perhaps the social safety net programs that were implemented 50 years ago under Johnson’s presidency had some positive effect after all.

– Rozali Telbis

Sources: Marketplace, The Week, Huffington Post, Half in Ten, Bill Moyers
Photo: National Review

Federal Poverty Level
The federal poverty level is a measure that is often cited yet seldom is it fully understood.  Currently, the federal poverty level is considered to be at about a $15,000 yearly income per two-person families and, of which, the extreme poverty threshold  is set to households that are living on less than $2 per day.  This definition is fairly controversial, and has been subject to change over the years based on a number of factors.  However, it is a key concept to understand, and not just for domestic policy but foreign affairs as well.

The federal poverty level, or threshold, has been in effect in its current state since the Kennedy Administration.  According to a paper by economist, Gordon M. Fisher, the level was initiated in order to understand the risks of living in poverty  and the affects of poverty on different groups of people.  During the Johnson Administration, the level was used as a target; particularly, during the administration’s War on Poverty.

The level was developed based on the cost of food for families at the time and what kind of nutritional diet a family would be able to have at different levels.  Under the first calculation of this threshold, done by an economist working for the Social Security Administration, the threshold was determined at $1,988 yearly income per two-person households.

Since its creation, while a number of revisions have occurred since the first set of calculations, the formula to determine the level has been an important factor in U.S. policy decisions.  When looking at global poverty, the extreme poverty measure is particularly important for the threshold has been used to set goals for anti-poverty measures.

The Millennium Project is one such measure that uses the federal poverty level calculations to influence foreign policy.  The project has a number of goals to keep the global economy move forward, but listed first on these goals is the effort to “eradicate extreme hunger and poverty.”  These goals were set in 1990 with initial targets set to hit these goals.

The initial target for the extreme poverty goal was to halve extreme poverty by 2015.  Reminiscent of Johnson’s War on Poverty, this goal looked to drive the force for a greater world society.  The goal actually was estimated to have been reached by 2008, an achievement that was praised as a major success for the Millennium Project.

Despite the fact that poverty levels are used by programs like the War on Poverty and the Millennium Project, the poverty threshold has a number of critics.  Popular criticisms are that the threshold is too low, as it still uses calculations from the 1960s, and are applied indiscriminately to very different regions.  Alternative poverty measures have been proposed by state governments and by groups such as the National Academy of Sciences.  Unfortunately, none have yet been adopted.

Federal poverty levels are important to understand considering they are most often used in discussions surrounding poverty.  The measures influence policy decisions and are used to track the path of the U.S. economy.  The indications are that extreme poverty is going down across the world, but what this says about actual poverty and what it says about the way it is measured could be debated in some corners.

Eric Gustafsson

Sources: The New Yorker, Huffington Post, UN Millennium Project, Social Security Administration, Center for American Progress



Good News in the War on Poverty

Good news about global poverty? Yes! And there is much more than you’d expect!

In 2015, countries around the world adopted the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 targets intended to combat poverty, reduce inequality, improve global health outcomes and protect the planet. Prior to the SDGs, the incredibly successful Millennium Development Goals concluded in 2015 after 25 years of remarkable achievements in tackling global poverty. The SDGs seek to further expand upon these accomplishments, with a key target to end extreme poverty for all people by 2030.

  1. In 2015, the percentage of the global population living in extreme poverty fell below 10 percent for the first time.
  2. In 2015, 702 million people lived in extreme poverty, down from 902 million in 2012 and 1.9 billion in 1990.
  3. Ten percent of the world’s population lived at or below $1.90 a day in 2015, down from 36 percent in 1990. Overall, global poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 2000.
  4. In East Asia and the Pacific, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty took a nosedive from 60.2 percent in 1990 to just 3.5 percent in 2013.
  5. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), new malaria cases in 2015 fell by 21 percent compared to 2010 levels and during the same period, global malaria mortality rates plummeted 29 percent.
  6. Since 2003, annual AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 43 percent and, in the worst-affected areas, the number of people currently on life-saving treatment has more than doubled since 2010.
  7. According to the WHO, HIV/AIDS is no longer the leading cause of death in Africa.
  8. In 2017, the World Poverty Clock launched, tracking the progress toward the 17 SDG goals. It currently estimates that one person escapes extreme poverty every second — equivalent to 86,400 every day.
  9. According to June 2017 figures, world internet usage now stands at 51 percent, up from 43 percent in 2015 and continuing the incredible growth rate since 2000, when only 7 percent of the global population was online.
  10. The cost of starting a business in sub-Saharan Africa decreased dramatically from 300 percent of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita in 2003 to roughly 50 percent in 2016, a decrease of more than 80 percent.
  11. Global carbon dioxide emissions in 2016 were flat for a third straight year, despite the global economy growing 3.1 percent.
  12. In 2017, 71 percent of the global population, or 5.3 billion people, used a safely managed drinking-water service, one located on-premises, available when needed and free from contamination.
  13. From 1999-2012, primary school enrollment in sub-Saharan Africa rose by 75 percent, to 144 million children.
  14. The number of underweight children under the age of five dropped from 160 million in 1990 to 93 million in 2015, despite the rise in global population.
  15. Since 2000, maternal mortality rates declined by 38 percent in 2017.
  16. Women made up a quarter of all parliamentary seats in 2016, a fourfold increase over the previous 20 years.
  17. In more than half the countries measured in the World Bank’s 2017 World Development Indicators report, the poorest 40 percent of the population experienced faster income growth than the national average between 2008 and 2013.
  18. The poverty gap declined from $300 billion in 1980 to $80 billion in 2015. And while foreign aid spending has eclipsed the poverty gap in recent years, a considerable part of this is earmarked for broader infrastructure spending and public goods (global health, food programs and the like).