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How Much Does Reducing Inequality Matter for Global Poverty?


  • Christoph Lakner
  • Daniel Gerszon Mahler
  • Mario Negre
  • Espen Beer Prydz


The goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and working towards a more equal distribution of incomes are part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Using data from 166 countries comprising 97.5% of the world’s population, we simulate scenarios for global poverty from 2019 to 2030 under various assumptions about growth and inequality. We use different assumptions about growth incidence curves to model changes in inequality, and rely on a machine-learning algorithm called model-based recursive partitioning to model how growth in GDP is passed through to growth as observed in household surveys. When holding within-country inequality unchanged and letting GDP per capita grow according to World Bank forecasts and historically observed growth rates, our simulations suggest that the number of extreme poor (living on less than $1.90/day) will remain above 600 million in 2030, resulting in a global extreme poverty rate of 7.4%. If the Gini index in each country decreases by 1% per year, the global poverty rate could reduce to around 6.3% in 2030, equivalent to 89 million fewer people living in extreme poverty. Reducing each country’s Gini index by 1% per year has a larger impact on global poverty than increasing each country’s annual growth 1 percentage points above forecasts. We also study the impact of COVID-19 on poverty and find that the pandemic may have driven around 60 million people into extreme poverty in 2020. If the virus increased the Gini by 2% in all countries, then more than 90 million may have been driven into extreme poverty in 2020. Length: 33 pages

Suggested Citation

  • Christoph Lakner & Daniel Gerszon Mahler & Mario Negre & Espen Beer Prydz, 2020. "How Much Does Reducing Inequality Matter for Global Poverty?," Global Poverty Monitoring Technical Note Series 13, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbgpmt:13

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    Cited by:

    1. Giovanni Valensisi, 2020. "COVID-19 and Global Poverty: Are LDCs Being Left Behind?," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 32(5), pages 1535-1557, December.
    2. Decerf,Benoit & Ferreira,Francisco H. G. & Mahler,Daniel Gerszon & Sterck,Olivier, 2020. "Lives and Livelihoods : Estimates of the Global Mortality and Poverty Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic," Policy Research Working Paper Series 9277, The World Bank.
    3. Nora Lustig & Guido Neidhöfer & Mariano Tommasi, 2020. "Short and Long-Run Distributional Impacts of COVID-19 in Latin America," Working Papers 2013, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    4. Nora Lustig & Valentina Martinez Pabon & Federico Sanz & Stephen D. Younger, 2020. "The Impact of COVID-19 Lockdowns and Expanded Social Assistance on Inequality, Poverty and Mobility in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico," Working Papers 558, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    5. Nora Lustig & Valentina Martinez Pabon & Federico Sanz & Stephen D. Younger, 2020. "The Impact of COVID-19 Lockdowns and Expanded Social Assistance on Inequality, Poverty and Mobility in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico," Working Papers 2012, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    6. Temilola Osinubi, Tolulope, 2020. "The Role Of Income Inequality In The Globalisation-Poverty Nexus: Empirical Evidence From Mint Countries," Ilorin Journal of Economic Policy, Department of Economics, University of Ilorin, vol. 7(2), pages 67-89, June.
    7. Mario La Torre & Helen Chiappini (ed.), 2020. "Contemporary Issues in Sustainable Finance," Palgrave Studies in Impact Finance, Palgrave Macmillan, number 978-3-030-40248-8, December.
    8. Loayza,Norman V., 2020. "Costs and Trade-Offs in the Fight Against the COVID-19 Pandemic : A Developing Country Perspective," Research and Policy Briefs 148535, The World Bank.
    9. Martin Ravallion, 2020. "On the Origins of the Idea of Ending Poverty," NBER Working Papers 27808, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Anand Sahasranaman & Henrik Jeldtoft Jensen, 2019. "Dynamics of reallocation within India's income distribution," Papers 1909.04452,, revised Oct 2020.

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