The elimination of global poverty by 2030 is one of the Sustainable Development Goals, and has been accepted as a goal by the World Bank and by the United States. Yet the measurement of global poverty poses many difficulties, especially now that the SDGs include poverty in rich countries as well as poor countries.
This lecture will give a non-technical discussion of some of these issues, including the vexed issue of whether there are people living in the US who are as poor as the poorest in Africa or in India. It will also address the puzzle of why global poverty exists at all, given that cost of bringing every person in the world up to the global poverty line amounts to less than the cost of a cup of coffee for everyone in the rich world. It argues that “finding out what works” in poverty relief is unlikely to help, and that the problems of global poverty are to do with politics and power, or at least the lack of it.