The new Sustainable Development Goals now recognize that children are a priority in the fight against poverty – the elimination of poverty by 2030 is the first goal of the SDGs. Extreme poverty, measured at $1.90 per person per day, disproportionately affects children – 387 million, or 19.5% of the world’s children live in extreme poverty compared to just 9.2% of adults. Children represent half of the poor yet are just one third of the underlying population.
Map of extreme child poverty rates by country
Higher poverty thresholds, for instance, $3.10 per person per day, still show that children dominate – 47 % of children are poor compared to 27% of adults. Higher income countries who are members of the OECD and use a relative poverty line based on one-half of median income show children dominating poverty in almost all high-income OECD countries.
Children’s poverty rates are higher than those of adults across most OECD countries
Percentage of poor population (OECD countries)
Poverty is about more than just having insufficient monetary resources (consumption or income) and by considering a range of essential material deprivations one can understand how poverty can cause children to face multiple deprivations simultaneously. This is especially true when monetary poverty is measured at the household level and does not consider children’s individual level needs and attainments. The SDGs also place a lot of emphasis on multi-dimensional poverty, but they leave it to countries to decide how to capture and measure the factors that constitute deprivation.
Across low- and middle-income countries, the Global Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) shows that more people are poor compared to extreme poverty measures, but that children are still over-represented.
Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)
Multi-dimensional poverty in high-income countries is often measured using indicators of material deprivation: whether children have toys, safe places to play and go on holidays, for example. In the European Union, there are both general- and child-specific measures of material deprivation. The overall picture of material deprivation in the EU again shows that children are over-represented and are bearing the brunt of poverty.
Material Deprivation (in %)
- Newhouse, David; Suarez-Becerra, P; Evans, M. (2016) New Estimates of Extreme Poverty for Children. Policy Research Working Paper No. 7845. World Bank, Washington, DC
- OECD (2016) Child Poverty, CO2:2 OECD Family Database, Paris: OECD
- Eurostat (2016) Children at risk of poverty or social exclusion, Luxembourg: Eurostat
- Sabina Alkire, Christoph Jindra, Gisela Robles, Ana Vaz (2017) Children’s Multidimensional Poverty: disaggregating the global MPI, Briefing 46, Oxford: OPHI
This briefing note from the World Bank Group and UNICEF reports that children in developing countries are more than twice as likely as adults to live in extreme poverty. In 2013, 19.5 per cent of children in were living in households that survived on an average of US$1.90 a day per person or less, compared to just 9.2 per cent of adults. Globally, almost 385 million children were living in extreme poverty.