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Half of the World's Poorest People Are Under 18, New Paper Says


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Researchers in the UK have made a few surprising discoveries about who is affected by poverty and how it impacts communities differently.

The unpublished working paper from the Center for Global Development, released on Monday, uses multiple poverty measures in order to best understand poverty and its effects across 106 countries.

Yet regardless of whether the paper’s authors, Gisela Robles and Andy Sumner, relied on a monetary measure of poverty — meaning people living on less than $1.90 — or resource-based measures like “poor schooling, ill health, and malnutrition,” they found that most people living in poverty are young.

In fact, half of the world’s population living in poverty is under the age of 18, according to the paper.

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But unlike some other studies using only the monetary measure of poverty have concluded, Robles and Sumner found that people affected by poverty do not necessarily live in rural areas or work in agriculture.

Instead, they found that people living in poverty commonly lack access to sanitation, nutrition, and efficient methods of cooking.

And while poverty certainly exists in rural areas, it also affects people in urban areas; however, it affects both groups differently.

“Rural poverty is more about infrastructure,” Sumner writes in a blog post about the paper’s findings.

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According to their research, people living in poverty in rural areas tend to lack access to education, water, sanitation, electricity, and decent housing.

“Urban poverty is more about child mortality and food,” Sumner writes. In the paper, the pair highlight the seeming paradox of this finding as people in urban areas are more likely to be close to better health care and more economic opportunities. 

Their findings appear to have emboldened Robles’ and Sumner’s optimism about achieving the UN Global Goals through policies and growth.

“[What] our own findings point towards is that it’s a good time given the global goals on ending poverty to take a much closer look at when growth goes right and wrong for the poor, and why,” Sumner writes.