World’s Poorest Countries

Published on InfoPlease, November 14, 2011.

… The World’s average Human Development Index (HDI), which combines information on life expectancy, schooling and income, has increased 19% since 1990 (and 41% since 1970). This reflects large improvements in life expectancy, school enrollment, literacy, and income. Almost every country has benefited from this progress. Only three countries have a lower HDI in 2010 than in 1970. Those three countries are Zimbabwe, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Poor countries are catching up with the wealthier countries, but not all countries made fast progress. For example, the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have progressed slowly, largely due to the HIV epidemic. Countries in the former Soviet Union have been held back by an increase in adult mortality.

To illustrate the income inequality between rich and poor countries, consider these facts: about 1.75 billion people live in multi-dimensional poverty, meaning extreme deprivation in education, health, and standard of living; 1.44 billion people out of the developing world’s 6.9 billion people live on $1.25 per day; 2.6 billion people are estimated to be living on less than $2 a day. Multidimensional poverty varies by region from three percent in Europe and Central Asia to 65% in Sub-Saharan Africa. (full text).

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