The New Bottom Billion

New IDS research shows that the global poverty 'problem' is changing. There is a new 'bottom billion' of 960m poor people or 72 per cent of the world's poor who live not in poor countries but in middle-income countries (MICs). This is a dramatic change from just two decades ago, when 93 per cent of poor people lived in low-income countries (LICs).

This isn't just about India and China and the findings are consistent across monetary, nutritional and multi-dimensional poverty measures. Contrary to earlier estimates that a third of the poor live in fragile states, our estimate is about 23 per cent, and they are split fairly evenly between fragile LICs and fragile MICs.

These findings raise questions not only about the definitions of country categories, the future of poverty reduction in heterogeneous contexts, the role of inequality and structural societal change, and about aid and development policy. One read of the data is that poverty is increasingly turning from an international to a national distribution problem, and that governance and domestic taxation and redistribution policies become of more importance than overseas development assistance(ODA).

Project question: What does the new bottom billion mean for poverty reduction, aid and development policy?

Visualisation from the Guardian Development Blog

New Bottom Billion - Guardian Graphic

DATA: Download the full spreadsheet

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Where Do The World’s Poor Live? A New Update

IDS Working Paper 393 (2012)
Sumner, A.

What Do National Poverty Lines Tell Us About Global Poverty?

IDS Working Paper 392 (2012)
Gentilini, U. and Sumner, A.

Reframing Aid in a World Where the Poor Live in Emerging Economies

International Development Policy (2012)
Carbonnier, G. and Sumner, A.

Poverty and Inequalities in Middle-Income Southeast Asia

Sumner, A., Suryahadi, A. and Thang, N.

Poverty in Middle-Income Countries

Bellagio Initiative Briefing Summary (2011)
Sumner, A.

Where Do The Poor Live?

World Development (In Press) (2011)
Sumner, A.

Poor Countries or Poor People? Development Assistance and the New Geography of Global Poverty

CEPR Discussion Paper 8489 (2011)
Kanbur, R. and Sumner, A.

The New Bottom Billion: What If Most of the World’s Poor Live in Middle-Income Countries?

Centre for Global Development (CGD) Policy Brief (2011)
Sumner, A.

Poor Countries or Poor People? Development Assistance and the New Geography of Global Poverty

Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management Working Paper (2011)
Kanbur, R. and Sumner, A.

The New Bottom Billion and the MDGs – A Plan of Action

IDS In Focus Policy Briefing 16.1 (2010)
Sumner, A.
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Project Dates:
January 2011 - November 2015
Project Status:
Department for International Development (DFID)
Research Themes / Programmes:

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