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In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, at the very time market reforms began to take root in parts of the developing world, those areas also experienced enormous advances in living standards and dramatic declines in poverty. What economists call “absolute poverty” afflicted 85 percent of the world’s population in 1820. That figure had fallen to 50 percent by 1950, and to 33 percent by the early 1980s. According to the World Bank, absolute poverty in the developing countries fell from 40 to 21 percent, and thus the global rate from 33 to 18 percent from 1981 to 2001. Not only the percentage but also the absolute number of people living in absolute poverty fell. This had never happened in any other twenty-year period in history. Indeed, poverty has been reduced more in the past fifty years than in the previous five hundred. In 1960, the life expectancy of the poorer countries was only 60 percent of that of the richer countries. That figure is now 80 percent. Caloric intake in the Third World has grown by one-third since the 1960s.2 In late-nineteenth-century England, rich and poor were separated by seventeen years in life expectancy and five inches in height; that difference has narrowed to two years and less than one inch in England today.3 In the United States, the poverty rate (a higher standard of material comfort than the “absolute poverty” metric just referred to) fell from about 95 percent of the population at the beginning of the twentieth century to about 12 to 14 percent by the end. The bottom quintile of the population saw its real incomes rise by 1,900 percent, a much greater jump than occurred in the higher quintiles of the income distribution. The average household below the poverty line around the year 2000 would have ranked among the richest 5 to 10 percent of households in real incomes in 1900.

Thomas E. Woods (2011-02-07). Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse (p. 121). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

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