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Unformatted text preview: Halving Global Poverty Timothy Besley and Robin Burgess I n September 2000, the world’s leaders met at the Millennium Summit at the United Nations in New York City and set an ambitious agenda for im- proving human welfare. These goals, which are elaborated at ^ http://www. developmentgoals.org & , include achieving universal primary education and gender equity; ensuring environmental sustainability; reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS; and by 2015, reducing under-age-five mortality by two-thirds, maternal mortality by three-quarters and the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water by half, in comparison to the levels prevailing in 1990. The goal of central importance to this paper is to cut in half the proportion of people living below $1 a day from around 30 percent of the developing world’s population in 1990 to 15 percent by 2015. The latest World Bank estimates (for 1998) suggest that 1.2 billion people are below the $1-a-day poverty line. Though the fraction of humanity in poverty is falling, absolute numbers in poverty have shown limited change (Deaton, 2002). This paper begins by discussing poverty trends on a global scale—where the poor are located in the world and how their numbers have changed over time. It then discusses the relationship of economic growth and income distribution to poverty reduction. Finally, it suggests an evidence-based agenda for poverty reduc- tion in the developing world. A recurrent theme of the paper will be that mainstream economic thinking on how to reduce poverty has evolved in the last couple of decades. The traditional economic focus in development thinking focused heavily on a neoclassical model in which growth was achieved by accumulating productive assets in a climate of y Timothy Besley is Professor of Economics and Political Science, and Robin Burgess is Lecturer in Economics, both at the London School of Economics, London, United Kingdom. Their e-mail addresses are ^ [email protected] & and ^ [email protected] & , respectively. Journal of Economic Perspectives—Volume 17, Number 3—Summer 2003—Pages 3–22 macroeconomic stability. This perspective has been challenged as insuf fi cient both inside and outside the economics profession. The primary outside challenge has come from nongovernment organizations who have grabbed newspaper headlines with their concerns about globalization, the environment, human rights, power- lessness and exploitation. Inside the economics profession, the institutional and political context in which policy and accumulation decisions are made has taken center stage. The agenda for growth still emphasizes accumulation of physical and human capital in a climate of macroeconomic stability, but the framework for achieving growth places greater emphasis on institutional reforms that expand opportunities for households, improve the climate for doing business and improve the accountability of elected of fi cials. The current redistributive agenda focuses lesscials....
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This note was uploaded on 10/16/2009 for the course ECON ECO324 taught by Professor Gustavoj.bobonis during the Fall '09 term at University of Toronto.
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