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End Of Poverty May Be Within Reach, But ‘Bar Is Set Very Low’

“The end of extreme poverty might very well be within reach,” economics reporter Annie Lowrey writes in a New York Times Magazine opinion piece. “In part, this is because the bar is set very low,” she states, noting, “The World Bank aims to raise just about everyone on Earth above the $1.25-a-day income threshold.” She writes, “Of course, making it above the $1.25-a-day mark doesn’t guarantee a white picket fence and a Caddy in the driveway — indeed it doesn’t even guarantee a proper meal,” adding, “For that reason, some economists have criticized the bank for setting its targets too low.” She notes, “The 1.2 billion people living in such extreme poverty, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, might own land, but they are not very likely to own durable goods or productive assets — things like bicycles — that might help them raise themselves out of poverty. In such families, about half or three-quarters of income goes toward food.”

“Fortunately, this deadly and cyclical form of poverty is already on its way toward obsolescence, and much faster than many development economists expected,” Lowrey continues. “Since 1980, the proportion of the developing world living in urban areas has grown to about 50 percent, from 30 percent, and according to the World Bank, that migration of hundreds of millions has been instrumental in pulling down poverty rates — and will be for a broader set of countries going forward,” she writes. “Urban poverty is hardly attractive — slums are cramped, unplanned, unhygienic places — but it is, in many cases, less deadly,” she states, noting, “Cities bolster access to health services and public resources; infant-mortality rates, for instance, are 40 percent lower in urban Cambodia than in rural Cambodia.” Lowrey adds, “More slums — as horrible as they are — could be a good thing” (4/30).

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