Image by Abbas Farzami/Rumi Consultancy/World Bank
  • Discussion paper
  • 13 December 2018

Filling the gaps in current global poverty data estimates

This paper explores new methodologies for producing global poverty data estimates for places where there are gaps in the World Bank’s PovcalNet database.


Dan Walton

As the authoritative global repository of extreme poverty data, the World Bank’s PovcalNet database currently provides contemporary and historical poverty estimates for 164 economies. Despite this excellent coverage, we have identified 77 economies (18 of which are ODA eligible) with no available data for the most recent reference year (2015). This is a data gap for almost 200 million people worldwide (2.7% of global population); moreover – as many of these people live in hard-to-reach places and/or countries classified as poor when measured by other standards (e.g. revenues per capita) – the figure may represent a much larger relative percentage of the global population living in extreme poverty.

In 2015, world leaders agreed a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the first goal of which is a commitment to ending extreme poverty ‘for all people everywhere’ by 2030. The presence of gaps in poverty data is therefore an significant hurdle for analysts and policymakers meeting this goal.

In this paper we have developed new methodologies to produce poverty estimates for those places that PovcalNet does not currently cover. We have applied these approaches to five ODA-eligible economies: Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya and Somalia; these economies represent almost 60 million people, totalling more than half of the worldwide ODA-eligible population with no current poverty data.

Key results

  • We have identified 25.2 million people in extreme poverty across five countries with no current PovcalNet poverty data.
  • Our results indicate extreme poverty headcounts which differ, in some cases significantly, from other methods of estimation such as regional averages or those used by the World Poverty Clock.
  • The approaches outlined in this paper present the opportunity for comprehensive poverty analysis in populations of poor people who are currently uncounted.

Photo credit: Abbas Farzami/Rumi Consultancy/World Bank