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World Bank rethinks poverty measure

Noel King Oct 1, 2015
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The benchmark of $1.25 a day is expected to raise to $1.90.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The United Nations General Assembly meets in New York City this week, and poverty is high on the agenda. Eradicating extreme poverty by the year 2030 is No. 1 on the U.N. list of sustainable development goals. The World Bank, which sets the benchmark for the global extreme poverty line, is expected to shift the line soon from $1.25 a day to $1.90 a day.

The move is meant to reflect changing standards of living, worldwide, according to Valerie Kozel, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She worked with the World Bank on poverty for many years.

“It’s an effort to keep a global poverty line contemporary,” Kozel says. “To make sure it reflects conditions today.”

She says when the bank first set the standard 30 years ago, living above the poverty line simply meant having enough food to eat.

Today, durable goods like cell phones and motorbikes are almost as important as food in many developing nations.

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