HumanProgress.org has a fascinating chart that compares the number of people living in extreme poverty (the orange line) with the number of people not living in extreme poverty (the blue line).
If the lines extended further to the left, we’d see them grow closer together. For almost all of human history, most everyone lived in a condition of extreme poverty. The Industrial Revolution helped to lift many people above a subsistence-level standard of living. But the gains appear to have been limited. As we see, from 1820 to about 1950 the two lines remain almost parallel.
Then around 1970, a seismic shift occurred. Just as the neo-Malthusians began to predict the world would run out of food and we’d all starve to death, economic growth began to carry more and more people out of poverty.
We often take for granted how quickly the situation changed, but this chart helps to highlight the amazing (and hopefully irreversible) shift in human flourishing.
For more information about this chart, visit HumanProgress.org.