Visualizing Extreme Poverty by Country

Basic internet access to this article isn’t even a thought for people living in extreme poverty. Most of us think of extreme poverty as an abstract concept that we hear about but never see. Yet, as our visualization illustrates, a significant portion of the world’s population lives like this, separated geographically from the rest of us.

Extreme poverty in the world

  • South & Central America and Africa contain the majority of the countries with high percentages of the population living in extreme poverty.
  • Countries with modern histories rife with warfare exhibit higher levels of extreme poverty such as South Sudan, Rwanda, and Somalia.
  • Extreme poverty for developed countries such as the United States and countries in Europe range between 0.1-0.5%.
  • Some smaller countries with strong social safety nets and economies such as New Zealand, Switzerland, and Taiwan carry extreme poverty rates below 0.1%.

For our data, extreme poverty is defined as living on less than $1.90 per day. The World Data Lab provides real-time estimates and projections at the country level, presenting the total population and estimated size of people living in extreme poverty. From that information, we can derive the percentage of the population living in extreme poverty. It’s worth noting that the data is only as good as the information provided or estimated when counts cannot be reliably obtained.

Countries With The Highest Percentage of Population In Extreme Poverty in 2021

Country Percentage of people living in extreme poverty
1. South Sudan 85%
2. Burundi 80%
3. Central African Republic 79%
4. Madagascar 77%
5. Congo 75%
6. DR Congo 74%
7. Malawi 73%
8. Eritrea 71%
9. Yemen 63%
10. Somalia 61%

Extreme poverty is a fluid state that people and countries move in and out of. And unfortunately, global catastrophes like the pandemic halt and often reverse decades of progress. Social programs through government agencies and private organizations get stretched as more people rely on them and less money comes in.

What’s interesting is when you compare the current levels with those in 2018. Well-off countries like Germany saw the number of people living in extreme poverty skyrocket from 28,000 in 2018 to 194,000. Interestingly, some countries made improvements over the same time such as the United States dropping from 3.2 million to 1.3 million or China from 9.5 million to 2.1 million. Yet, we can see how countries like Somalia, Burundi, and Madagascar garner top spots year after year. It demonstrates how systemic extreme poverty can be in certain areas while economic activity helped others reduce their levels even as populations grew.

Programs like child tax credits and organizations like OXFAM aim to reduce the number and percentage of people living in extreme poverty. But what do you think is the number one thing we can do to reduce extreme poverty around the globe? Let us know in the comments below.

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