However, those lows can make the good-news highs that much better. And it turns out today might just be one of those days. I read an interesting article this morning by Charles Kenny, a fellow at the Center for Global Development, claiming that the number of people living in absolute poverty (<$1.25/day) is on the decline.
What? Talk about fantastic news. Kenny cites a few studies to back up his statement, but to check his statement, I pulled some quick data from the World Bank. Lo and behold, he’s right:
Every single region’s percentage in absolute poverty has gone down in the last decade and a half while the overall population size has risen (the most recent data is from 2005).
Maybe this is old news; maybe I was so focused on our work here at Vittana that I missed the announcement. And there are always many factors at play in changing those numbers. But, to look at the whole picture for a minute – WOW. Call it economic resurgence, call it international development, call it pigs flying for all I care. We hear a lot about failures in the world, but today we’re a success – something’s working!
I have to admit I’m not excited about this for purely altruistic reasons. Less people in absolute poverty means more people living in those next steps up in development where Vittana thrives. As more people step above the $1.25 line, the world opens up. If you have a full belly and a roof over your head, you are free to think about other things – like the opportunity for an even greater life – that education can provide. And it doesn’t have to be much above that line – Vittana students in Vietnam estimate they’ll go from $3/day to $8/day after graduation.
It’s easy to get swept up in the 24-hour news cycle, making molehills into mountains and living in a state of constant crisis. And I do not intend to belittle the very real poverty issues facing the world – even if the number of people living in absolute poverty is dropping, one person living on so little is a tragedy, let alone almost a billion.
But this is still a good excuse to celebrate. For today at least, World: 1, Poverty: 0.