If you'd like to learn more, the UN isn't going to help you


The United Nations’ The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009 doesn’t have any footnotes, which makes it almost worthless. For example, they write: “Worldwide, the number of people living in extreme poverty in 2009 is expected to be 55 million to 90 million higher than anticipated before the global economic crisis.”

That’s a headline-worthy number. It’d be nice to see their calculations. Or at least identify who produced the number. Was it the UN or someone else?

A UN press release from 24 June 2009 says “The crisis-related slowdown in growth in developing countries implied there were an estimated 55 to 90 million more extremely poor people in 2009 living on less than $1.25 a day, than had been projected before the crisis.” This contrasts with numbers produced by World Bank researchers Shaohua Chen and Martin Ravallion in late April, who estimated that

the crisis will add 53 million people to the 2009 count of the number of people living below $1.25 a day and 64 million to the count of the number of people living under $2 a day. Given current growth projections for 2010, there will be a further impact on poverty in that year, with the cumulative impacts rising to an extra 73 million people living under $1.25 a day and 91 million more under $2 a day by 2010.

So did we learn during May and June that an additional 37 million persons were likely to fall below the $1.25 per day poverty line? Did Chen and Ravallion revise their updates recently, or does the UN source disagree with their estimates? We’ll never know, because the MDG Report doesn’t have footnotes or references. But at least it has photo credits!