Poverty Facts & Figures


Of the Earth’s population of approximately 7 billion people:

66% (4.6 billion) live in poverty

The World Bank

 48% (3.3 billion) live on $2 a day.

United Nations Human Development Report

 19% (1.3 billion) live on $1 a day.

United Nations Human Development Report

 31% (2.1 billion) live in substandard housing.

Habitat for Humanity

 30% (2.1 billion) suffer malnutrition.

The State of Food of Insecurity in the World, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

 40% (2.8 billion) do not access to adequate sanitation.

United Nations Human Development Report

31% (2.1 billion) people do not have electricity

World Nuclear Association

3% (210 million) are migrating.

National Bureau of Economic Research

 15% (1 billion) do not access to safe drinking water.

United Nations Human Development Report

49% of the Earth’s people, 49% (3.7 billion) live on less than $5.50 a day

The World Bank

In 1820 the difference in income between the richest and poorest countries was 3 to 1.

  • In 1913, it was 11 to 1
  • By 1950, it had grown to 35 to 1
  • In 1973, it became 44 to 1
  • By 1992, it was 72 to 1

Recent research indicates that these trends are continuing.


Global Wealth

The bottom 50% of the population — 3.5 billion people — have less than $2,161 each.

The top 50% of the population — 3.5 billion people — have at least $2,161 each.

The top 10% of the population — 700 million people — have at least $61,041 each.

The top 5% of the population —  350 million people — have at least $150,145 each.

The top 1% of the population– 70 million people — have at least $514,512 each.

United Nations University — World Institute for Development Economics Research (WIDER)

The top 1% of the world’s richest people have as much wealth as 57% of the poorest people in the world.

United Nations World Development Report

The 3 richest persons have more assets than the combined Gross National Product (GNP) of the 48 poorest nations25% of the world’s countries.

United Nations Human Development Report

In 2018 the world’s billionaires got richer by $2.5 billion — each day, while the poorest half of humanity got poorer by $500 million each day.


There are now twice as many billionaires as there were at the time of the financial crisis in 2008.


A new billionaire was created every days in the past year and they are paying lower tax rates than they have been in decades. Meanwhile 10,000 people die each day because they can’t afford healthcare.


The world’s richest are hiding $200 billion in tax revenue, while 262 million children are left out of school.


Getting the richest 1% to pay just 0.5% extra tax on their wealth, could raise more money than is needed to educate all 262 million children out of school & provide healthcare to save the lives of 3.3 million people.


Every year, nearly 11 million children die before reaching their 5th birthday, most from preventable causes. That is approximately, 30,000 children per day. Another 300 million children suffer from illnesses caused by lack of clean water, poor nutrition and inadequate health services and care.


The world spends as much money on fragrances ($28 billion) as all of Africa and the Middle East spends on education.

United Nations Children’s Fund

The world spends almost as much as money on toys and games ($86 billion) as the poorest 20% of the world’s poor people earn in a year.

The World Bank

The US and Europe spend nearly 90 times as much on luxury items ($800 billion) as the amount of money that would be needed to provide safe drinking water and basic sanitation for those people in the world who do not have these things.

United Nations Children’s Fund

The world spends 4 times as much on alcohol as on international development aid.


Each year, the world spends:

$58 billion on pet food, pet care products


 $329 billion on narcotics

UN Office on Drugs & Crime

$431 billion on tobacco


There is a direct connection to national security and personal insecurity. The world spends $975 billion on military spending each year but only $78 billion on international development aid.

Stockholm International Research Institute and The Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development

Of the 100 largest economic entities in the world, 51 are corporations and 49 are countries.

Institute for Policy Studies

The sales of each of the world’s top 5 corporations are bigger than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 182 countries. For example, Wal-Mart and Exxon-Mobil each had annual sales greater than the GDP’s of Saudi Arabia, Poland and Greece.

Institute for Policy Studies

The US and other developed countries considered their role regarding the UN Millennium Goals to help developing countries achieve their goals – but not achieving them themselves. While most of the world made steady progress by the 2015 deadline, the US and other developed countries went in the other direction.

People living in high income countries can expect to live up to 10 years longer.

The US

Income inequality in the U.S. is at its highest level in more than 50 years.

The ratio of compensation for a CEO to a worker went from 30:1 in 1978 to 278:1.

The New York Times

Median family wealth in the U.S.:
  • White family     $171,000
  • Latino family    $20,700
  • Black family     $17,600

The federal poverty thresholds for 2019 were:

  • 1 person – $12,7490
  • 2 people — $16,910
  • 3 people – $21,330
  • 4 people — $25,750

US Department of Health & Human Services

Despite being the wealthiest nation on earth, the US has the widest gap between rich and poor people of any industrialized nation.

Catholic Campaign for Human Development

Since 1978, the cost of a college tuition has increased by 1,120%. Medical care has increased by 601%. Food costs have increased by 244% and the price of shelter has risen by 360%. Meanwhile, the average pay for a CEO increased by 937% but the pay for a typical worker rose by just 10% and the minimum wage fell by 5.5%.

The official poverty rate in America is 11.8% — about 37 million people — about the population of Canada.

U.S. Census Bureau

50% of Americans over 65 would live in poverty without Social Security.

National Public Radio (NPR) & Center of Budget Policy & Priorities

33% of Americans live in poverty at least 2 months a year.

U.S. Census Bureau

“Deep poverty” is defined as an annual income of 50% or less of the federal poverty line. Approximately 18 million people in the U.S. live in deep poverty. Those in deep poverty represent about 5% of the total population and 45% of those in poverty.

U.S. Census Bureau

Deep poverty is frequently accompanied by homelessness. Homeless families are generally young. Nearly 50% of people living in deep poverty are under 25 and more than 33% are single mothers and their children.

Bread for the World

“Extreme poverty” is an annual income of $2 or less per person per day ($730 a year) and formerly applied only to people living outside of the US.. However there are approximately 18 million Americans living in extreme poverty.

United Nations

The United Nations has ratified 17 goals for global development, with goal 1 being to end extreme poverty for the first time in human history by 2030.

The Working Poor

There are about 7 million individuals in the U.S. considered to be “working poor” — people who spent at least 27 weeks in the labor force (that is, working or looking for work) but whose incomes still fell below the poverty level.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

In America, 1 parent with 1 child, working a full-time at a minimum wage job every week of the year, earns $15,080 ($7.25 x 40 hours x 52 weeks) before deductions or taxes — is below the federal poverty line for 2 people.

Bread for the World

Increasing the minimum wage to $12.00/hour would enable a single breadwinner, working full time, year round, to earn $24,960 and pull a family of 4 over the federal poverty line. Currently about 33% of all workers earn less than this.

Bread for the World

The Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which encourages work by supplementing earnings, lifts approximately 9 million people out of poverty each year, including 5 million children.

Bread for the World

The Minimum Wage

The real value of the minimum wage peaked in 1968. Adjusted for inflation, it is worth 66% of its value then.

Bread for the World

The value of the federal minimum wage by year (adjusted for inflation):

  • 1968      $10.74
  • 1978      $9.49
  • 2009      $7.89
  • 2014      $7.25

The Pew Research Center

Gradually raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour would boost the incomes of most low-wage workers and lift 900,000 people out of poverty.

Congressional Budget Office

In 1965, CEO pay was 20 times higher than the average worker. Today it is 278 times.

The New York Times

33% Americans spent part of the Great Recession in poverty.

Bread for the World

Children in Living in Poverty

A child is born into poverty every 41 seconds in America.

25% of children ages 0-5 in America live in poverty.

31% are white, 24% are black and 36% are Hispanic.

National Center for Children in Poverty

Nearly 50% of all poor children under 5 live in extreme poverty.

More than 66% of poor children are children of color.

66% of poor children in related families live with an adult who works and nearly 33% live with a family member who works full time year round.

Children in the U.S. rank 26th in well being among other countries of the world.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Office of Research

The economic losses of not having paid family leave are significant. 25% of U.S. mothers return to work 10 days after giving birth and 33% don’t return at all.

The Pew Research Center

By law, Hungary has 24 months of paid paternal leave. Germany has 14 months and France has 10 months. The U.S. has 0.

International Network of Leave Policies & Research & the U.S. Department of Labor

Despite having the highest national income among major economically advanced countries, the real child poverty rate in the United States (20%) is among the highest.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

Children in single parent families comprise 27% of all American children, yet they account for 62% of all poor children.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

Just 8% of the 17 million potentially eligible children based on federal eligibility parameters received childcare subsidies.


Nationwide families in poverty who pay for child care spend an average of 30% of their incomes on it. This is more than housing, utilities, transportation or food.

Bread for the World

Of the 45 wealthiest nations of the world, the U.S. ranks 22nd in quality, 16th in affordability and 31st in availability of childcare.

Economist Intelligence Unit

The average cost for center-based childcare in the U.S. is $14,760 per year.

Center for American Progress

In 31 states, the average annual cost for an infant in center based care is higher than a 1 year tuition and fees at a 4 year public college.

Bread for the World

10% of child care centers in the U.S. are accredited.

Child Care Aware of America

The median annual wage for a childcare worker in the U.S. is: $24,230 (less than the federal poverty level for a family of 4.)

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

High income workers are 4 times as likely as low income ones to have paid sick leave and 40 million workers go without.

Bread for the World

Early childhood education is inseparable from child care. However child care is often treated as “custodial” and left to parents to figure out, while early education is treated as developmental and worthy of investment.

Bread for the World

Research on brain development makes clear that investments in young children yield the highest return in everything from increases in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to reductions in crime.

Bread for the World

The Head Start program serves only low income children and it serves less than 50% of income eligible pre-schoolers. Its companion program, Early Head Start reaches less than 4% of eligible infants and toddlers.

Bread for the World

More than 66% of poor children live in families that have at least 1 wage earner and 40% of low income parents have no access to any paid time off such as sick days, medical leave, parental leave, vacation time etc.

Bread for the World

The U.S. is the only wealthy country in the world that does not guarantee workers any paid vacations, paid holidays, paid sick leave or paid maternity leave by federal law.

The U.S. Department of Labor

About 14% of US civilian workers have access to paid family leave.

The Pew Research Center

People Living in Landfills

Some 15 million of the world’s poorest people live and work in municipal rubbish dumps around
the globe.

People living in dumps scavenge for food and things to sell. They make around $3.25 a day selling the items they find to ‘agents’ and scrap dealers who then sell it.

Waste Atlas

People don’t leave the dumps because they can’t afford to.
  • Families get trapped in a cycle of generational poverty because the wages offered by recycling are not high enough to cover their most basic needs.
  • Most garbage dump communities don’t have access to schools. Without access to formal education or jobs that offer enough money to relocate, those living in the dumps cannot afford to live or work elsewhere, or save money to invest in the future.
  • Living and working in the dump often leads to sickness, disease, or serious injury, further trapping generations of families.

Garbage dumps are incredibly dangerous. The minority of deaths in garbage dumps are natural. Dangers include:
  • Methane gas buildup causing spontaneous combustion
  • Getting swallowed into garbage landslides and suffocating
  • Illness from contaminated food and water, toxic air, and lack of sanitation
  • Serious and/or gangrenous injury from glass or shrapnel
  • Being run over by garbage trucks/crushed by contents
  • Disease and disability caused by medical waste dumping
  • Gang violence and blackmail based on region
  • Trauma and mental illness related to severity of the conditions
         International Samaritan

Pneumonia – commonly spread through a lack of hygiene – is the number one killer of children under 5, accounting for more than 1,000 deaths a day worldwide.


30% of infants born in a dump will die before reaching the age of 2.

The average life expectancy in these communities is 35.

About 100 families live in the Boragaon landfill which is located in Pakistan, about 300 miles from Bangladesh near the border with Bhutan. It’s 94 acres of mostly fresh waste, surrounded by swamplands.


La Chureca, the largest garbage dump in Central America is located on the outskirts of Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua and covers over 4 square miles. Approximately 1,000 people live & work on the “City of Trash” every day.


In Indonesia, more than 2,000 families live on the Bantar Gebang landfill that lies outside of Jakarta.

Borgen Project

The 11,000 people who live and work in and near the Guatemala City Garbage Dump rely on the 500 tons of trash that dumped there each day to survive. There is no way to truly know how many people work in the dump, but 4,500 work badges have been documented

Safe Passage

“Smoky Mountain” the massive garbage dump outside Manila in the Philippines was known as the largest slum in Asia. It was forcibly dismantled by the government in 1995 but some of the people who had made their living as scavengers there moved to the Payatas dump located in neighboring Quezon City. Known as “the second Smoky Mountain,” Payatas is home to about 3,500 households and where the infant mortality rate is about 33%. In 2000 thousands of people were trapped when a huge landslide of garbage buried them in their shacks and over 200 — many children — died as a result.


Each year USAID provides access to sustainable sources of income for over 900,000 people living in landfills.

The Borgen Project

Approximately 0.6% of the US federal budget ($3.8 trillion) is allocated for foreign aid. This comes to about $20 billion and includes the following programs:

  • Maternal health and child survival (such as vaccines)
  • Vulnerable children (orphans and displaced children)
  • HIV/AIDS programs, USAID & the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)
  • Malaria, Tuberculosis and other infectious diseases
  • Development assistance (such as water & education)
  • International disaster assistance
  • The U.N. Millennium Challenge account

US Conference of Catholic Bishops