The press — and humans in general — have a strong negativity bias. Bad economic news gets morecoverage than good news. Negative experiences affect people more, and for longer, than positive ones. So it’s natural for things like Russia’s incursion into Ukraine or the rise of ISIS or the Ebola outbreak to weigh on us more than, say, the fact that extreme poverty has fallen by half since 1990, or that life expectancy is increasing, especially in poor countries. But for Thanksgiving it’s worth paying some attention to the latter factors. The world is getting much, much better on a whole variety of dimensions. Here are just a few.
Extreme poverty has fallen
This is probably the most important chart on this list. The extraordinary rate of economic growth in India and China — as well as slower but still significant growth in other developing countries — has led to a huge decline in the share of the world population living on less than $1.25 a day, from 52 percent in 1981 to 43 percent in 1990 to 21 percent in 2010. That’s a low bar for what counts as poverty, and some development experts are arguing we should be using a global poverty line of $10-15 a dayinstead, but that very debate is a sign of the tremendous progress made in recent decades.
Hunger is falling
This animated map shows the Global Hunger Index — a measure of undernutrition calculated by the International Food Policy Research Institute — across the world form 1990 to 2014. Red and orange countries have especially high levels of hunger and undernutrition, while green ones have lower rates. So it’s encouraging to watch the globe gradually get less red and more green over the past 24 years.