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IMF Growth projections for all regions fell in the April and June 2020 estimates (versus January), then remained similar in October. All regions are projected to be negative now

Six Takeaways from the New Growth Forecasts from the IMF and the World Bank

This week the IMF released new global economic growth projections in the face of COVID-19, updating their earlier projections from June and from April before that. In recent weeks, the World Bank has also released new projections for various regions. Here are six takeaways that we gleaned from reviewing those and dozens of other projections from other organizations over the course of the year.

An image of 3 percent

Three Percent is a Big Difference

There is a little-noticed but important difference between the World Bank’s original goal for poverty reduction and the first of the subsequent UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG1).  The difference is that the Bank’s goal was to reach a 3 percent poverty rate by 2030, while the SDG1 is to “eradicate” poverty by 2030, where “eradicate” means zero. Yet that 3 percent could well make a big difference

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. 

Finding Up-to-Date Median Income Data Just Got Much Easier (Thanks, PovcalNet!)

We have long advocated for more widespread use of median income or median consumption to compare individuals’ material well-being between countries and its development over time, and we are happy to report that the World Bank team that manages the (impressive) PovcalNet database has come through: as of October 1, the median monthly per capita income or consumption for each country is now part of the standard indicators displayed for any country query on PovcalNet.

The World Bank’s Poverty Statistics Lack Median Income Data, So We Filled In the Gap Ourselves — Download Available

PovcalNet, the World Bank’s global poverty database, provides all kinds of country statistics, including mean income, the share (and number) of the population living in absolute poverty ($1.90), the poverty gap and several measures of income inequality, such as the Gini coefficient. But one thing it doesn’t provide is median income or consumption. The median is a better measure of “typical” well-being than the mean, which is always skewed to the right.

We’ve been waiting for the World Bank to add these medians to its PovcalNet database, but we got impatient and did it ourselves. By manually running a few hundred queries in PovcalNet, we now have (and can share with you) the latest median income/consumption data for 144 countries (using 2011 PPPs — more on our methods below).

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