Woman with bundle on her head walking past people selling bright fabric along railroad (© Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters)
A woman shops by tracks in Kolkata, India. (© Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters)

Tens of millions of people are escaping poverty thanks to robust economic growth that is helping not just wealthy countries but dozens of poorer ones.

The World Bank says the gross domestic products of lower-income nations accelerated 4.3 percent in 2017, faster than the global growth rate of 3 percent.

Some 700 million people face extreme poverty, which the World Bank defines as living on $1.90 or less per person per day. That’s down from 2 billion in 1990. The biggest event of 2017 “is that the global poverty rate reached its lowest level ever. This will probably be the most important story of 2018 also,” New York University economics professor William Easterly writes in a tweet.

U.S. tax cuts

Deep U.S. cuts in corporate and other taxes are expected to spur further growth worldwide, according to the International Monetary Fund. The IMF raised its global growth forecast for both 2018 and 2019 to nearly 4 percent.

The United States and other countries and the United Nations have set a goal of eliminating extreme poverty everywhere by 2030.

In 2017, Bangladesh experienced one of the largest economic growth rates (7.2 percent) and neighboring India’s growth is close behind (6.7 percent).

Not long ago, hunger and sickness dogged the lives of Mossamat Monjaura Khatan, her husband and three young sons in the northern Bangladeshi town of Sirajganj. “I was very worried about my children’s future,” she says. “Each day was a struggle to survive.”

That changed after the U.S. Agency for International Development funded a project that brought health, nutrition and farm training to Sirajganj, including instruction on how to irrigate arid rice fields. Today the Khatans’ children are healthy and well-fed. One wants to become a doctor. “Now I am ahead in every way,” the mother says.

Two children and man standing among branches and huts (© Michael Robinson Chavez/Washington Post/Getty Images)
Residents outside homes in Kawama, a Democratic Republic of Congo mining town. Half the world’s extremely poor live in Africa. (© Michael Robinson Chavez/Washington Post/Getty Images)

Economists calculate that two centuries ago all but a small elite of the world’s population lived in conditions now considered extremely poor, afflicted by hunger and poor health.

Extreme poverty is still a fact of life across sub-Saharan Africa. Some 86 million Nigerians are living in extreme poverty, as are 55 million in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the World Bank’s most recent country-by-country estimates. More than 380 million on the continent are extremely poor.

Escaping poverty

The report says that despite its economic surge, India had the most people in extreme poverty last year: 218 million of its 1.3 billion people. But India is undertaking economic reforms to boost its private sector and spur faster growth, efforts showcased at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad in November.

Brookings Institution economist Homi Kharas, a creator of the World Poverty Clock, says 50 countries are lagging in the fight against extreme poverty.

Nonetheless, experts say, over the last quarter century 137,000 people have escaped extreme poverty every day.