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Researchers Call World Bank Poverty Figures Too Low

  • VOA News

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim addresses the crowd at a program for the "EndPoverty 2030" campaign in Washington, Apr. 10, 2014.
New research suggests that global poverty figures - which the World Bank defines as people living on less than $1.25 a day - could be underestimated by up to one-third.

The World Bank figures are widely used and play a significant role in global strategies to reduce poverty. But critics argue the "dollar a day" poverty standard is too arbitrary and does not take into account many basic human needs.

Researchers at the University of Bristol looked at shelter, sanitation, water, nutrition, health and education for those living on the Pacific island state of Vanuatu, which is largely rural. They called the poverty standard "rosy" in light of what they found.

According to the study, five percent of all children in Vanuatu live in poverty as defined by the World Bank. But 17 percent live in poverty as defined by a national food and basic needs benchmark. Absolute poverty, where people are deprived of two or more basic human needs, affects 16 percent of children in Vanuatu, say researchers. The study was published in the Journal of Sociology.

The findings challenge the $1.25 measure, which is being used to the monitor progress of nations in achieving the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals. The goals include reducing by half the number of people who live in extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.

The World Bank is calling for robust measures to end the "extreme poverty" of at least one billion people by 2030.

Researchers at the Australian National University, University of New South Wales, UNICEF Pacific and the Vanuatu National Statistics Office carried out the study. It was received funding from UNICEF Pacific and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).