The New Bottom Billion

21 October 2010

On Wednesday the 27th October, Andy Sumner will tell parliamentarians, NGOs, journalists and development experts, gathered at an IDS event in Westminster, that the nature of global poverty has changed and that they must urgently consider whether the MDGs are fit for purpose to 2015 and beyond.

Andy Sumner's new research, Global Poverty and the New Bottom Billion, says that popular understandings of global poverty are based on the false premise that poor people all live in poor countries. In fact, three quarters of the world's 1.3bn or so poor people live in middle income countries such as India, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and Indonesia.

Andy Sumner, a member of IDS' Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction Team, said:

"In the past poor people lived in poor countries but now there's around 950m poor people, or a new bottom billion, who live in middle income countries. Only about a quarter of the world's poor - about 370mn people or so - live in the remaining 39 low-income countries, which are largely in sub-Saharan Africa. This is a dramatic change from just two decades ago when 93% of poor people lived in low-income countries. This change has major implications for both the achievement of the MDGs and global strategies for poverty reduction beyond 2015."

Next week, those gathered at IDS' event in Westminster, will be told that in the past chronic poverty has been viewed as predominantly a low income country issue. Now though, claims Sumner, such assumptions are misleading because of a number of large countries with millions of poor people in them that have graduated into the middle income World Bank category.

He will say that Paul Collier's approach, in his hugely influential Bottom Billion published in 2007, overlooks close to 70% of the poor people in the world.

The new IDS In Focus Policy Briefing published today summarises Andy Sumner's findings and provides a set of policy implications. It says that a new focus on relative poverty should shape the aid agenda. Aid should be tailored to LICS and MICs so that poverty is targeted wherever it occurs. And a mechanism is needed that shares financial responsibility between richer and poorer countries.

Dangerous Ideas in Development 'Beyond the MDG Summit' will take place on Wednesday 27 September. Places are limited.