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Where Do the Poor Live?

Over 90% of the extreme poor live in three regions of the world: Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, and South Asia. Looking at extreme poverty by country, Table 1.1 shows the percentage of the world’s poor who live in each of these countries, with “poor” defined as living below the global poverty line of US$1 per day.10 As indicated, ten countries represent 84.24% of the world’s poor and almost two thirds (63%) live in India or China.

Table 1.1. The Top Ten Countries Representing 84.24% of the World’s Poor (Below US$1 Per Day)

Rank

Country

Percentage of the World’s Poor

1

India

41.01%

2

China

22.12%

3

Nigeria

8.03%

4

Pakistan

3.86%

5

Bangladesh

3.49%

6

Brazil

1.82%

7

Ethiopia

1.82%

8

Indonesia

1.49%

9

Mexico

1.43%

10

Russia

.99%

Source: NationMaster, 2008

To understand how “poor” a country is, however, it is more relevant to consider what proportion of its population lives in extreme poverty. Table 1.2 shows this statistic for all countries with 50% or more people living below the poverty line. As you can see, the vast majority (70%) of these countries are on the continent of Africa.

Table 1.2. Countries with 50% or More of Their People Living Below the Poverty Line11

Rank

Country

Percentage of the Population Living Below the Poverty Line

#1

Liberia: (Africa)

80%

#2

Gaza Strip: (Middle East)

80%

#3

Haiti: (Central America)

80%

#4

Zimbabwe: (Africa)

80%

#5

Chad: (Africa)

80%

#6

Sierra Leone: (Africa)

70.2%

#7

Suriname: (South America)

70%

#8

Mozambique: (Africa)

70%

#9

Angola: (Africa)

70%

#10

Nigeria: (Africa)

70%

#11

Swaziland: (Africa)

69%

#12

Burundi: (Africa)

68%

#13

Tajikistan: (Asia)

60%

#14

Bolivia: (South America)

60%

#15

Rwanda: (Africa)

60%

#16

Comoros: (Africa)

60%

#17

Guatemala: (Central America)

56.2%

#18

Malawi: (Africa)

55%

#19

Senegal: (Africa)

54%

#20

São Tomé and Príncipe: (Africa)

54%

#21

Afghanistan: (Asia)

53%

#22

Honduras: (Central America)

50.7%

#23

Kenya: (Africa)

50%

#24

Namibia: (Africa)

50%

#25

Ethiopia: (Africa)

50%

#26

Madagascar: (Africa)

50%

#27

Eritrea: (Africa)

50%

#28

South Africa:

50%

Source: NationMaster, 2009

Some are surprised to learn that India has (only) 25% living below the poverty line, China has 10%, and the United States has 12%. More detail on the United States is provided in the following sidebar.

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