In 1820, according to data compiled by Roser*, the share of the global population living in poverty was 94 percent while 84 percent lived in “extreme” poverty. By 1992, the poverty rate had dropped to 51 percent, while the “extreme” poverty rate had dropped to 24 percent. Using a different measure of international poverty, the rate has dropped from 53 percent in 1981 to 17 percent in 2011 – representing the most rapid reduction in poverty in world history.

“In the past only a small elite lived a life without poverty,” Roser explains. “Since the onset of industriali[z]ation – and as a consequence of this, economic growth — the share of people living in poverty started decreasing and kept on falling ever since.”