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Measuring Global Poverty Before and During the Pandemic. A Political Economy of Overoptimism

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: We thank the anonymous reviewers and those who provided comments on an earlier version of this paper as a UNU-WIDER working paper, as well as Salome Ecker for research assistance. Publisher Copyright: © 2021 UNU-WIDER. Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

King's Authors


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.

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