Poverty Facts & Figures


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

66% (4.6 billion) live in poverty

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

 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

The difference in income between the richest and poorest countries in 1820 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 to get worse.

Globalization, Spirituality & Justice

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.

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

More than 6 million children die from preventable causes each year – that’s 17,000 every day, or 12 every minute.

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.

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.

Euro Monitor

Each year, the world spends:

$58 billion on pet food, pet care products

Euro Monitor

 $329 billion on narcotics

UN Office on Drugs & Crime

$431 billion on tobacco

Euro Monitor

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.

The US

The federal poverty thresholds for 2015 are:

1 person – $11,770

2 people — $15,930

3 people – $20,090

4 people — $24,250

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

The official poverty rate in America is 13% — about 37 million people — more than the population of Canada. Another 5 million are teetering on the brink. This is the highest it’s been in 17 years.

Center of Budget Policy & Priorities

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

National Public Radio & Center of Budget Policy & Priorities

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

US Census Bureau

“Deep poverty” is defined as an annual income of 50% or less of the federal poverty line (or $12,125 a year) for a family of 4.

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 used to apply only to people living outside of the US. However by 2011, 1.6 million households, including 3.5 million children in the US were living in “extreme poverty.” Since 2000, extreme poverty has been rising – particularly among those most affected by the 1996 welfare reform.

Bread for the World

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

80% of poor Americans work.


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 — which is $850 below the 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 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, lifted 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 (adjusted for inflation):

1968      $10.74

1978      $9.49

2009      $7.89

2014      $7.25

Pew Research

Raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 would lift 5 million Americans out of poverty

CBS News

In 1965, CEO pay was 20 times higher than the average worker. Today it is 273 times.

The Washington Post

33% Americans spent part of the Great Recession in poverty

Bread for the World

Children in Living in Poverty

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

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

40% of new mothers in the U.S. return to work by the time their infants are 3 months old —  some because they want to, most because they have to.

Demos, State of Young America: Raising a Family

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. Dept. 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. Finland (4%), Sweden (4%), Austria (6%), and Denmark (2%), among others, have much lower child poverty rates.

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

Childcare subsidies to low income families reach just 16% of families that are eligible under federal law.  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. per year is $10,000.

U.S. Dept. of Personnel Management

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 childcare workers in the U.S. is: $19,600 (less than the federal poverty level for a family of 3.)

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. Dept. of Labor

People Living in Landfills

Many of the world’s poorest people scavenge for garbage dumps for food and things to sell.

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.

Expert Vagabond

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

The “Smoky Mountain” garbage dump outside Manila in the Philippines is home, workplace and playground to about 80,000 (and rising) people. 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.

Peoples of the World

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

Around the World in 80 Dumps

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 of the total budget:

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