16 Global Poverty Facts and Key Poverty Statistics

  • More than 736 million people worldwide live below the poverty line — measured by the World Bank as earning less than $2.15 per day.1
  • The poverty threshold for a family of four in the United States is an income of just over $26,000 per year.2
  • Poverty rose globally in 2020 and 2021 by 150 million people — the first increase in the global poverty rate in 20 years 1
  • The global COVID-19 pandemic is expected to set back poverty reduction progress in 70 developing countries* by three to 10 years.3
  • Child poverty accounts for half of the world’s poor with 1 out of 5 children experiencing extreme poverty.4
  • Roughly 84% of people experiencing extreme poverty live in sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia.3
  • Worldwide, the poverty rate is three times higher in rural areas than in urban cities.4
  • One out of every 27 children will die before reaching the age of 5, mostly from malnutrition and other preventable causes due to extreme poverty.5
  • More than half of all child deaths occur in just five developing nations:* Nigeria, India, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia. 5
  • Approximately 264 million children and youths around the world are not attending school.6
  • UNESCO estimates global poverty could be cut by 55% if all children completed secondary education.6
  • More than 785 million people globally do not have access to basic water services, including a well.7
  • One-fourth of the world’s total population (roughly 2 billion people) do not have basic sanitation like a toilet in their home.7
  • Every day, approximately 810 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.8
  • Around the world, roughly 130 million primary and secondary school-age girls are out of school.9
  • There are still 773 million people in the world today who can’t read, and most of them are women.10

What Is Poverty?

Whether you use the term extreme poverty, destitution, absolute poverty or multidimensionally poor, at its foundation, poverty is a chronic and debilitating condition that affects a person’s whole self.

Poverty keeps people from reaching their God-given potential, regardless of whether they are in the United States or one of the world’s poorest countries.

Poverty is a state of constant lack in one or more of life’s sustaining dimensions. It’s injustice! It’s the opposite of having enough. It causes suffering, hinders growth and leads to brokenness that affects the individual, their families, their communities and the entire world.

The poverty in this world is about more than the amount of money a person makes. Yet household income is a key indicator of extreme poverty. People with higher incomes have more access to resources that make life easier. A higher income allows a person to focus on growth and fulfilment versus daily survival, but to live below the poverty threshold is to live every day fighting just to survive.

The World Bank, which has been tracking and analyzing global poverty rate statistics in every country for more than 40 years, has examined the national poverty lines of the world’s poorest countries and set the extreme poverty threshold at making less than $2.15 per day.

But what does poverty actually look like? What does it mean to live in extreme poverty? It means:

  1. You are displaced.
  2. You often go hungry or receive poor nutrition.
  3. You lack basic necessities like clean water, electricity and sanitation.
  4. You miss out on a good education.
  5. Your living situation puts you at high risk for disease.
  6. You don't have access to doctors, hospitals or needed medicines.
  7. You suffer injustice and inequality due to poor representation.
  8. You live surrounded by violence and danger.
  9. You can’t change your situation.
  10. You believe you are worthless and unimportant.

Why Do We Have Poverty?

Poverty is a symptom of the broken relationships we have with creation, each other, ourselves and with God. It’s a lack of dignity and justice. It’s seeing and treating others in a way that is contrary to how God sees each of us.

All this brokenness is hard to overcome, particularly for the poor. The lie of worthlessness speaks loudly to the poor, and they too often believe the lie. Society at large reinforces the belief. So, the poor have little hope for ever breaking the generational cycle of poverty.

The only way to truly end poverty is to repair these broken relationships or prevent them from breaking in the first place. That’s why Compassion’s mission is to release children from poverty in Jesus' name.

As the Bible says, train up a child in the way they should go, and they will not depart from it. Children are the most vulnerable to poverty’s dehumanizing effects. But they are also the most impressionable. So, the power of the truth — that they are made with dignity and in the image of God — can still reach them, and break hold of poverty’s lie that they’re worthless.

How Is Poverty Measured?

The World Bank is a major force for measuring global poverty and inequality, but many other economic, governmental, university and nonprofit entities also study different aspects and types of poverty, the different causes of poverty and potential solutions.

Each organization or entity specializes in or is concerned with specific aspects of poverty. The United Nations, UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme, Oxford University and the U.S. Census Bureau are just a few of the organizations measuring global poverty.

Why Is Global Poverty Described as Making Less Than $2.15 Per Day?

For many years, poverty measures were mostly measured in economic terms. The idea of purchasing power parity (PPP) is closely linked with having access to resources that lead to greater fulfilment in life.

PPP exchange rates set up to price the same quantity of goods and services equally across countries were introduced in 1990 and have been updated throughout the years to account for inflation. The current poverty line of $2.15 was adjusted from $1.90 in 2022 using 2017 PPP.

What About Child Poverty?

Poverty in any case is horrible, but child poverty is what breaks our hearts the most. Children are the most at risk for starvation and poor nutrition, disease, abuse and exploitation. The effects of poverty on children are devastating. Poverty can stunt and hinder physical and mental growth, shorten life spans and invite bondage.

Yet while children are the most vulnerable to poverty’s effects, they are also the most impressionable. It’s easier to combat and correct poverty’s lies they are being told than it is after a person has already begun to believe them. That's why we work to connect the local church with caring benefactors to sponsor children who need love, support and encouragement.

Compassion’s Child Sponsorship Program is a holistic, long-term approach to breaking the generational cycle of poverty. In partnership with thousands of local churches around the world we are working to release millions of children from physical poverty, social/relational poverty, emotional poverty, cognitive poverty and spiritual poverty.

Since 1952, our Christian holistic child development ministry has helped caring people like you change the future for millions of children and their families, who in turn help change their communities, their countries and the world!

Help Change the Facts About Poverty. Sponsor a Child Today.

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1 Poverty Overview. World Bank. www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/overview.

2 2021 Poverty Guidelines. ASPE. (2021, May 5). aspe.hhs.gov/2021-poverty-guidelines.

3 Charting Pathways Out of Multidimensional Poverty: Achieving the SDGs. Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative. 2020. ophi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/G-MPI_Report_2020_Charting_Pathways.pdf

4 “Goal 1: End Poverty in All Its Forms Everywhere — United Nations Sustainable Development.” United Nations Sustainable Development, www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/poverty/. Accessed 7 July 2021.

5 World Health Organization Fact Sheet. Children: improving survival and well-being. September 2020.

6 “World Poverty Could Be Cut in Half If All Adults Completed Secondary Education | UNESCO UIS.” UNESCO UIS, uis.unesco.org/en/news/world-poverty-could-be-cut-half-if-all-adults-completed-secondary-education. Accessed 7 July 2021.

7 “Global WASH Fast Facts | Global Water, Sanitation and Hygiene | Healthy Water | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/healthywater/global/wash_statistics.html. Accessed 7 July 2021.

8 World Health Organization Fact Sheet. Maternal Mortality. September 2019.

9 “Girls’ Education | UNICEF.” UNICEF, www.unicef.org/education/girls-education. Accessed 7 July 2021.

10 “Literacy | UNESCO UIS.” UNESCO UIS, uis.unesco.org/en/topic/literacy. Accessed 7 July 2021.

* In 2015, the World Bank began phasing out the term “developing world” in its publications and databases. The use of the developed countries and developing countries categories was “becoming less relevant” with the adoption of the SDG and its focus on targets for the entire world.