Ending extreme poverty: Economist Ana Revenga

Inscribed in stone at the headquarters of the World Bank in Washington, D.C., are these words: “Our Dream Is a World Free of Poverty.” In recent years the world has made remarkable progress toward realizing that dream. Last fall the World Bank projected that for the first time in history less than 10 percent of the world’s population was living in extreme poverty—down from 37 percent in 1990 and 44 percent in 1981. The World Bank defines “extreme poverty” as living on less than $1.90 per person per day. Ana Revenga, senior director of the Poverty and Equity Group at the World Bank, believes that the goal of ending extreme poverty can be achieved. In her 20-year career at the World Bank, she has worked in many regions of the world, especially on issues of gender equality. Before joining the World Bank, she worked at the Central Bank of Spain.

How do you measure extreme poverty around the globe?

It is extremely difficult to measure poverty in a rigorous way, and every country sets its own standards for what is necessary for basic living. There are climate variations: what a person needs to survive in Central Asia for caloric intake, clothing, shelter, and heat is different from what is needed in a tropical location. And the standards vary with development. Richer countries will set a higher standard for what counts as poverty.