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Who is not Poor? Proposing a Higher International Standard for Poverty


  • Lant Pritchett



Poverty reduction is now, and quite properly should remain, the primary objective of the World Bank. But, when the World Bank dreams of a world free of poverty—what should it be dreaming? I argue in this essay that the dream should be a bold one, that treats citizens of all nations equally in defining poverty, and that sets a high standard for what eliminating poverty will mean for human well-being. I propose a new standard for global income poverty for the World Bank’s use. This poverty line is the weighted average of the poverty lines declared by its shareholders, where the declared poverty line is no lower than the country uses for its own citizens. I show this will imply a poverty line of around U.S.$15 a day in current purchasing power adjusted currency units—about ten times higher than the existing standard.

Suggested Citation

  • Lant Pritchett, 2003. "Who is not Poor? Proposing a Higher International Standard for Poverty," Working Papers 33, Center for Global Development.
  • Handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:33

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Anna Maria Mayda, 2006. "Who Is Against Immigration? A Cross-Country Investigation of Individual Attitudes toward Immigrants," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(3), pages 510-530, August.
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    4. Luis López-Calva & Eduardo Ortiz-Juarez, 2014. "A vulnerability approach to the definition of the middle class," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 12(1), pages 23-47, March.
    5. Goldin, Ian, 2013. "Divided Nations: Why global governance is failing, and what we can do about it," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199693900, June.
    6. Christian Morrisson & Fabrice Murtin, 2007. "Education inequalities and the Kuznets curves: a global perspective since 1870," PSE Working Papers halshs-00588085, HAL.
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    8. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
    9. Ruggie, John Gerard, 1975. "International responses to technology: Concepts and trends," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 29(03), pages 557-583, June.
    10. Birdsall, Nancy & de la Torre, Augusto & Caicedo, Felipe Valencia, 2010. "The Washington consensus : assessing a damaged brand," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5316, The World Bank.
    11. Nancy Birdsall, Nora Lustig, Christian Meyer, 2013. "The Strugglers: The New Poor in Latin America?-Working Paper 337," Working Papers 337, Center for Global Development.
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    Cited by:

    1. Scott Morris & Madeleine Gleave, 2016. "The World Bank at 75," Journal of International Commerce, Economics and Policy (JICEP), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 7(01), pages 1-39, February.
    2. ALi Abdel Gadir Ali, "undated". "Poverty in the Arab Region: A Selective Review," API-Working Paper Series 0402, Arab Planning Institute - Kuwait, Information Center.

    More about this item


    poverty; World Bank; human well-being;

    JEL classification:

    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • F35 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Aid
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • F33 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Monetary Arrangements and Institutions
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • O19 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - International Linkages to Development; Role of International Organizations


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