Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

Cape Town at morning rush hour

Anarchy Undelivered

Twenty-five years ago, travel writer and journalist Robert Kaplan wrote an article for The Atlantic, headlined “The Coming Anarchy.” It was an apocalyptic account of Kaplan’s visit to West Africa and his dark vision that much of the world would end up looking like war-torn Sierra Leone. Kaplan suggested recently that he thought “The Coming Anarchy” had stood the test of time. I disagree, and think the fact that Kaplan was wrong matters: global jeremiads are a force for isolationism. I discussed why with The Atlantic’s Matthew Peterson on a new podcast.  

 
Detail of chart showing that taxes can exacerbate poverty in the poorest countries

Chart of the Week: Taxing the Poor to Give to the Bureaucrat?

The world’s poorest people have been getting richer recently. But they remain incredibly poor. The 10 percent of the world’s population still consuming $1.90 or less a day are subsisting on a small fraction of the resources available to people at the US poverty line. So you’d hope that the governments of the countries where they live would be trying to raise their consumption levels. But the reality is more complex.

Chart of the Week #4: Angus Deaton and the Location of Poverty

On Wednesday, Angus Deaton published an op-ed in the New York Times that paints a compelling picture of the depth of poverty in America, and the need for more money and more policy attention to fix it. It's a sobering read, and we strongly agree that America’s most destitute deserve far more support. But in comparing US poverty to poverty in developing countries, we think he’s got his numbers wrong.

The (Sometime) Tyranny of (Somewhat) Arbitrary Income Lines

As Lant Pritchett reports, the World Bank has introduced two new poverty lines: $3.20 for lower middle income countries, and $5.50 for upper middle income countries. I’m with Lant that this is broadly a good thing. But the process by which the World Bank came up with its new poverty lines suggests it might be worth revisiting some of the pitfalls of income thresholds at the individual or national level. 

Really, Global Poverty *Is* Falling. Honest.

Martin Kirk and Jason Hickel published a piece earlier this week on the annual Gates Letter. The core critique is that the letter is too rosy. In particular, Kirk and Hickel say of the Gates' letter: "some of their examples are just wrong." The case they provide in illustration is the idea that poverty has been cut by half since 1990. The Gates "use figures based on a $1.25 a day poverty line, but there is a strong scholarly consensus that this line is far too low." Use other poverty lines, and global poverty "hasn’t been falling. In fact, it has been increasing—dramatically.” (See related pieces by Jason here and here). I don't think this critique holds up.

SDG One: First Fix the Goalposts

This is the latest in a series of CGD blogs suggesting improvements to the SDG targets.

The first target of the first goal of the Sustainable Development Goals is to “eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere” by 2030.  The second target is to “reduce at least by half the proportion of…. [people] living in poverty…..according to national definitions.”  

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