The contribution of this paper is to question the World Bank’s estimates of global monetary poverty up to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. We argue there is a political economy of overoptimism in the measurement of global poverty. Specifically, we show that the methodological and presentational choices made by the World Bank lead to a more optimistic view of the levels of, and trends in, global poverty. We provide an up-to-date critique of the global poverty estimates and demonstrate how patterns of poverty would differ if small changes in methodology were implemented. We conclude with a theoretical discussion of why the World Bank makes methodological choices that lead to an optimistic view of global poverty levels and trends. Subsequently, we propose an alternative approach to global poverty measurement.