August 13, 2015

World Poverty Statistics: 23 Sobering Facts

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How many people in the world live in poverty? Read this article for the surprising statistics on world poverty.

© findsiddiqui (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

The world population comes in at just over 7 billion and counting, with no signs of slowing down any time soon. As the population increases, so does the demand for fundamental resources, such as food, water and shelter. When there are more people than resources to go around, poverty tends to flourish.

Breaking the cycle of poverty is difficult and in some countries, generation after generation faces the same daily struggle for basic survival. Taking a look at some basic facts and figures on world poverty makes it easier to wrap your head around the scope of the problem.


There are a number of different ways poverty can be measured, and getting an accurate picture can be difficult. Below, we've collected some key statistics on how widespread poverty is and who it affects the most.

  1. How many people live in poverty worldwide?
    As of 2013, it's estimated that 1.6 billion people around the world live in poverty. That means more than 20% of the world's population is getting by on $1.25 or less each day.

  2. How many children struggle with poverty?
    Roughly one-third of those living in poverty globally are children. That comes out to more than 400 million kids who are subjected to a subpar standard of living.

  3. How have poverty rates changed over time?
    Interestingly, world poverty rates have declined fairly substantially over the last several decades. Between 1981 and 2010, the number of people facing extreme poverty dropped by 721 million.

  4. What regions have the highest poverty rates?
    Just over 50% of the world's poor live in South Asian countries. Twenty-nine percent make their home in Sub-Saharan Africa.

  5. How common is poverty in rural areas?
    While there are a fair number of people living in urban and suburban areas that deal with poverty, 78% of the world's poor live in rural areas. More than two-thirds of them earn their living from agriculture.

  6. Which developed country experiences the most poverty?
    Among developed nations, Israel ranks as the most poverty-stricken. The poverty rate is 20.9%, which is nearly double the average for other developed countries.

  7. Which still-developing country is the poorest?
    Once labeled a Third World country, India has transitioned into a developing nation but many of its residents face huge economic obstacles. Altogether, nearly 33% of India's 1.2 billion residents live in extreme poverty.


While poverty is less common in the United States, Canada, and Mexico than other countries, it remains a serious issue. We've broken down what poverty looks like in North America.

  1. How many people live in poverty in the U.S.?
    Poverty rates in America have declined slightly in recent years, to 14.5% of the population or roughly 45 million people.

  2. How many American children live in poverty?
    More than 16 million children in the U.S. belong to families that live below the federal poverty line. Approximately 45% of all American kids live in households that are deemed "low-income."

  3. What region of the U.S. is the poorest?
    Historically, the south has always been the region most prone to poverty. As of 2012, 41% of the nation's poor lived in southern states. The poverty rate is lowest in the northeast, at 16.1%.

  4. How do poverty rates compare by race?
    In 2012, poverty affected 12.7% of whites versus 27.2% of blacks. The poverty rate was highest among Hispanics, at 25.6%.

  5. How prevalent is poverty in Canada?
    Poverty in Canada is something of a paradox, since less than 9% of households are considered low income but nearly 20% of children live in poverty. Among Canada's indigenous population, poverty affects 4 in 10 kids.

  6. What about Mexico?
    In Mexico, 45% of the population, or roughly 53 million people, are poor. Nearly 10% of Mexico's residents live in extreme poverty.


To conclude our study, we highlighted some of the most important facts about poverty in other parts of the world.

  1. How many people are affected by poverty in Europe?
    In the European Union, 24% of the population, or more than 120 million people, either live in poverty or are at risk of doing so.

  2. How does that break down demographically?
    While the majority of Europe's poor are adults, 27% of all children in the EU live in poverty. Just over 20% of the poverty-stricken adults are over age 65; women living in poverty outnumber men by 12 million.

  3. How common is poverty in Australia?
    One in seven Aussies live at or below the government-mandated poverty level. Among children, the poverty rate comes out to 1 in 6.

  4. Which Australian state is the poorest?
    The poverty rate is highest in Tasmania, where more than 15% of the population is classified as poor. In terms of individual cities, Sydney boasts the highest number of poor.

  5. How many people in Africa lack access to clean water?
    Among Africa's poor, clean water for drinking or bathing is a precious commodity. It's estimated that 358 million people living in Africa routinely deal with a shortage of clean water.

  6. How many Africans experience food shortages?
    Malnutrition goes hand-in-hand with poverty and in Africa, 1 in 4 people don't get enough food to eat. About 214 million citizens are considered undernourished.

  7. What percentage of Latin America lives in poverty?
    In Latin American countries, including South American nations and the Caribbean, poverty affects 28% of the population. That's about 167 million people in total.

  8. How common is extreme poverty in Latin America?
    Of those who lack sufficient financial resources in Latin America, 71 million are considered to be extremely poor or indigent.

  9. How big is Asia's hunger problem?
    Overwhelmingly, Asia's poor are most affected by hunger and nearly 526 million people go without food on a daily basis.

  10. What percentage of Asia's children are malnourished?
    While food availability has improved over the last two decades, 30% of Asian children under the age of 5 are still moderately to severely underweight.


Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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