Economist Sir Tony Atkinson launches World Bank report on poverty | University of Oxford
Sir Tony Atkinson
Sir Tony Atkinson

Sir Tony Atkinson

Economist Sir Tony Atkinson launches World Bank report on poverty

Sir Tony Atkinson, an economist who has pioneered thinking on inequality and welfare economics, presented his report of the Commission on Global Poverty at a launch in Oxford.

At the launch event on 4 November, co-hosted by OPHI in the Department of International Development and the Oxford Martin School, Sir Tony explained his recommendations on how to more comprehensively measure and monitor global poverty. The report supports the World Bank Group’s goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity.

The Commission was set up in June last year by the World Bank’s Chief Economist to advise the World Bank on 'how to measure and monitor global poverty' in monetary and non-monetary domains. It brought together 24 of the world’s leading poverty experts, under the chairmanship of Sir Tony, a world-leading authority on inequality.

The aim of our Report was to improve the way the World Bank monitors poverty. By focusing on changes over time, we can learn, taking account of the potential margins of error, about the evolution of global poverty. The confidence to be placed in these conclusions can be increased by improvements in the methods of analysis and in the underlying data

Sir Tony Atkinson, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School

He said: 'The aim of our Report was to improve the way the World Bank monitors poverty. By focusing on changes over time, we can learn, taking account of the potential margins of error, about the evolution of global poverty. The confidence to be placed in these conclusions can be increased by improvements in the methods of analysis and in the underlying data. Outside the World Bank, it is hoped that this report will be of value to everyone engaged in poverty measurement across the world, and be a highly positive force in encouraging partnerships.'

The Commission’s final report includes a set of 21 recommendations. The Bank Group has agreed to accept a number of them, including the call for the extreme poverty line to be cited as 'the International Poverty Line (IPL)', and expressed in each country in terms of its local currency. Highlights include recommendations on broadening the conception of poverty to include non-monetary measures of deprivation; a suggestion to introduce a societal headcount measure of global poverty, which combines absolute and relative elements of poverty, and a recommendation to publish a global profile of the poor.

Thanking Sir Tony and his Commission, the Bank Group responded by saying 'its recommendations would guide the poverty monitoring work of the World Bank Group and other development partners and practitioners for many years to come'.

Attending the launch were Dr Dean Jolliffe, Senior Economist of the World Bank, and four other members of the Commission. They included Professor Sabina Alkire, Director of OPHI at the University of Oxford, and Professor James Foster, Oliver T Carr Professor from George Washington University. The World Bank has said it will also look at the report’s recommendations on non-monetary poverty, including their development of an Alkire-Foster multidimensional poverty measure.

Other commissioners at the event were Professor Stefan Dercon, Professor of Economic Policy, Blavatnik School of Government, and Professor Robert Allen, Professor of Economic History, New York University Abu Dhabi (and a former economics professor at the University of Oxford).