Q1 – Extreme poverty in high-income countries

This question was asked to the public in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and the UK in the Sustainable Development Misconception Study 2020

In December 2020 Gapminder launches a brand new service for upgrading your worldview, where you will be able to take this (and many other) tests and become certified gapm.io/upgrader


What share of the population in high-income countries (like Germany and the USA) live in extreme poverty (with less than $2/day)?

a) Less than 1%

b) Around 11%

c) Around 21%

Correct answer

Less than 1% of people in high-income countries live in extreme poverty, with less than $2/day.

Extremely few are extremely poor in rich countries

Being poor in rich countries is a terrible experience that too many families have to deal with on a daily basis. They suffer from exclusion and lack opportunities that others around them have. The solution to their suffering is often within reach of the country they live in if only resources and opportunities were more fairly shared.

The definitions of poverty in high-income countries are often used to determine who has the right to welfare programs. The definitions of poverty are different in different countries but they are often in the range of $10 to $30 per person per day. 

The definition of extreme poverty does not vary between countries. It’s $1.90 per person per day everywhere. Today, less than 10% of the world’s population live in extreme poverty, which often means not having enough food, no clean water, no electricity, bad housing and no healthcare. Roughly half of the them live in middle-income countries, and the rest live in low-income countries. Almost none of them live in high-income countries.

To see how families live on different incomes across the world, Gapminder has sent photographers to hundreds of families and the photos can be compared on Dollar Street

This data for global income distribution, shows how many people live on different income levels in different countries.

Data explanation

The World Bank[1] estimates that in 2018 roughly 0.6% of all people in high-income countries lived on less than $1.90 a day. The dollar level is adjusted for differences in prices and costs of living, by using the Purchasing Power Parity of 2011 international dollars.

The group called high-income countries are those who have a gross national income (GNI) per capita above $12,536, calculated using the World Bank Atlas method[2]. Around 80 countries from around the world are in this category, including most countries in Europe.

The incomes of people in different high-income countries are made comparable in the Luxembourg Income Study database[3].

Please note that this question asks about the international extreme poverty rate, which uses an absolute poverty line of 1.90 $/day. This is different from the national poverty lines which vary across countries and are used to determine who is eligible for social welfare programs in each country. In many high-income countries the national poverty lines are around 20 times higher than the international line of extreme poverty[4][5].

Source 1 – World Bank Povcal

Source 2 – World Bank income groups

Source 3 – Luxembourg Income Study database

Source 4 – A richer array of international poverty lines, the World Bank, FRANCISCO FERREIRA & CAROLINA SÁNCHEZ-PÁRAMO, OCTOBER 13, 2017

Source 5 – “Estimating International Poverty Lines from Comparable National Thresholds” by Dean Jolliffe & Espen Beer Prydz