Why Does No One Believe Extreme Poverty Has Declined?
Religion & Liberty Online

Why Does No One Believe Extreme Poverty Has Declined?

poverty-declinedWould you say that over the past three decades (since about the mid-1980s) the percentage of people in the world who live in extreme poverty — defined as living on less than $1.25 per day — has:

A) Increased
B) Decreased
C) remained the same

The right answer is B: extreme poverty has decreased by more than half. Yet according to a recent Barna Group survey more than eight in 10 Americans (84 percent) are unaware global poverty has reduced so drastically, and more than two-thirds (67 percent) say they thought global poverty has risen during that period.

Additionally, more than two-thirds of US adults (68 percent) say they do not believe it’s possible to end extreme global poverty within the next 25 years. One exception to this pessimism is practicing Christians. Defined by Barna as people who have attended a church service in the past month and say their religious faith is very important in their life, practicing Christians under 40 are the most optimistic at nearly half (48 percent), with practicing Christians over 40 slightly higher than the general population (37 percent compared to 32 percent of all adults).

The reason for the pessimism about eradicating extreme poverty generally fall into one of five categories:

(1) 21 percent believe poverty is simply inevitable and will always exist;
(2) 20 percent don’t think enough people care about the issue;
(3) 17 percent feel there is not enough of a collective global effort;
(4) 17 percent can’t get past the enormity of the problem; or
(5) 14 percent do not trust what they see as corrupt governments in impoverished countries.

Concern is warranted; pessimism is not. The eradication of extreme poverty in the next few decades is a very real possibility. But we must first get the message out about what has been done and what more needs to be done in the future. A good place to start is with this video by Steve Davies of LearnLiberty. Davis explains why we’ve made progress and how in the near future we can do even more.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).