PolitiFact comments on and then strangely repeats a claim by Boris Johnson:


[PolitiFact quoting Mr Johnson:]

" "Global poverty is down to "less than 10% today from 37% in 1990."

Boris Johnson on Friday, February 17th, 2017 in comments at the Munich Security Conference

Yes, global poverty fell dramatically after 1990

By Jana Heigl

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson took a moment at the Munich Security Conference to praise the "unadulterated triumph of what you might broadly call western values, technology, culture, and indeed western economic thinking."

Johnson’s main example? World poverty.

"The proportion of the global population living in poverty (has) declined to fewer than 10 percent today from 37 percent in 1990," Johnson said Feb. 17, 2017. "An even more staggering accomplishment for the human race when you consider we have added 1.8 billion people to the planet in that time."

Is Johnson on firm ground with those poverty stats?

He is, with minor allowances for uncertainty in the data. …

Charles Kenny, an economist at the Center for Global Development, a Washington policy group, told us there’s a little bit of give in the numbers. ..."

[MB: Mr Kenny does not know inflation for the poor, and has shown no sign of using any analysis of their need.

So how can he say whether the numbers have a little bit or a lot of "give"?

How does he explain the disconnect between the unreliable World Bank numbers and the unreliable FAO numbers?]

"Kenny told us, given the unavoidable uncertainty in the data, "I'd say Boris was pretty much right."

[MB:  "Right" about what? 

Poverty is supposed to be where your needs are greater than your resources. 

It is not hard to see that "needs" are subjective.]


"Our ruling

Johnson said global poverty fell from 37 percent to under 10 percent since 1990. His numbers are quite close to those of the World Bank.

An economist
[singular] familiar with the assumptions behind the data told us that there’s enough uncertainty [?] in the figures that it’s fair to say that Johnson has it right." 

[MB:  I do not understand the sentence. 

Does the author mean

"the figures are so certain that it's fair to say Johnson has it right"?]

The figures are known to be uncertain, even beyond the strange idea that you can measure "consumption poverty" without thinking about what people need to consume.

"The one [!] point Johnson’s summary ignores is that some regions such as sub-Saharan Africa have not seen as large a decline in poverty."

[MB: I am afraid that is clearly false.

Is it not obvious that it ignores other points?

Is it not obvious that a fixed amount of money for all people at all times is highly questionable?

Even the World Bank researchers themselves point to multiple problems.

Mr Johnson in fact ignores a large number of problems with using the word "poverty" to describe the numbers.

For example, the claim ignores assets and debts, as well as failing to be based on inflation rates for the poor.

What about the economists' failure to adjust for necessary expenditure on health, education, transport, shelter and so on?

What about the fact that the UN experts say they do not have figures for the availability of clean water?  Without those, how can a person say they know basic needs have been met?

What about the fact that the figures look worse if the poor survive?]

"So his numbers are correct," 

[How can there be a "correct" poverty claim?  

All such claims count some things and leave others out.  

Why would one choice be "correct" and another "incorrect"?

It is an odd position to claim only 10% of humans are poor.

It is odd to claim progress by asking people what they spent, as if they must be out of poverty if they spend more.]

"but the reality is very different depending on where you live.

We rate this claim Mostly True."

Yes, global poverty fell dramatically after 1990
PolitiFact Global News Service
1 March 2017



Strange categorical statement about global poverty, especially as the World Bank does not look at needs over time:


"Boris Johnson has a point. The global poverty rate fell under 10 percent in 2015. But were all regions affected equally?"

5 March 2017