The world is richer and healthier

From Beijing to Bratislava, more of us are living longer, healthier and more comfortable lives than at any time in history; fewer of us are suffering from poverty, hunger or illiteracy, says economist Indur Goklany in his book, "The Improving State of the World," published by the Cato Institute.

We should be especially proud of the fact that humanity has never been better fed, says Goklany:

  • The daily food intake in poor countries has increased by 38 per cent since the 1960s to 2,666 calories per person per day, on average.
  • The population of those countries has soared by 83 per cent during that time.
  • Together with a 75 per cent decline in global food prices in real terms in the second half of the 20th century – caused by improved agricultural productivity and freer trade – fewer people than ever before are going hungry.

    There is still a long way to go; but never before in human history have so many people been liberated from extreme poverty so quickly, says Goklany:
  • The number of people subsisting on $1 a day has declined from 16 per cent of the world population in the late 1970s to 6 per cent today, while those living on $2 a day dropped from 39 per cent to 18 per cent.
  • In 1820, 84 per cent of the world's population lived in absolute poverty; today this is down to about a fifth.

    Even life expectancy in poorer countries has improved quickly, notes Goklany:
  • In China it has surged from 41 years in the 1950s to 71 years today; in India it is up from 39 years to 63 years, almost doubling the average lifespan of 2 billion people.
  • In 1900 average life expectancy around the world was a mere 31 years; today it is 67 years and rising.

    Source: Allister Heath, The world is richer and healthier, Spectator, December 2, 2006; based upon: Indur Goklany, The Improving State of the World, Cato Institute, November 2006.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 12 December 2006
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