This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

A Billion People in Poverty--Just Like 200 Years Ago!

Max Roser has done it again! He's put together a great analysis of global poverty over the past 200 years, focusing on "absolute poverty." This is roughly equivalent to the current World Bank idea of poverty as representing the equivalent of living on $1.25 per day. In colloquial terms, we would call this dirt poor. He makes the excellent point that if we go back 200 years (in this case to 1820, for which a data series of estimates exists), almost everyone was poor. Indeed, his estimates are that 94 percent of humans were in poverty as the modern industrial enlightened age began. That meant that there were 1 billion poor people in the world. As you can see in the graph below, that number hit its peak in the late 1960s--just as Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb. Since then the number of people living in absolute poverty has dropped back down to "only" one billion, but fortunately that now represents only 14 percent of the world's population. The global community has devoted a lot of time and energy to raising people out of the bottom of the pit, but now the question turns to how we are going to sustain that effort. There is obviously a lot of concern that economic growth has come about in ways that have been using resources faster than they can be regenerated. A key to the future will be our ability to transition quickly to renewable energy sources, as I have discussed before.

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