The Asian ‘Poverty Miracle’

The Asian ‘Poverty Miracle’

Impressive Accomplishments or Incomplete Achievements?

ADBI series on Asian Economic Integration and Cooperation

Edited by Jacques Silber and Guanghua Wan

Following rapid economic growth in recent decades, Asia and the Pacific experienced an impressive reduction in extreme poverty, but this drop was not uniform and achievements are still incomplete. Vulnerability to natural disasters, the increasing impact of climate change and economic crises should all be taken into account. There is also a need to consider the multidimensional nature of poverty and the non-uniformity of the decrease across different ethnic groups. This book explores the Asian ‘poverty miracle’ and argues for the development and use of an Asia-specific poverty line.


Jacques Silber and Guanghua Wan

Subjects: asian studies, asian development, asian economics, development studies, asian development, development economics, economics and finance, asian economics, development economics


As a consequence of the rapid economic growth in recent decades, Asia and the Pacific have experienced an impressive reduction in extreme poverty, when measured at the conventional $1.25/day/person poverty line. Whereas in 1981, 1.59 billion Asians were poor (corresponding to a poverty rate of 69.8 percent), in 1990 the number of poor in Asia had fallen to 1.48 billion (a 54.7 percent poverty rate). In fact, by 2005, Asia had succeeded in halving its extreme poverty because its 26.9 percent poverty rate was already less than half the 1990 level and, by 2010, the extreme poverty rate reduced further to 20.7 percent. The early attainment, in the world as a whole, of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (halving extreme poverty globally) would certainly not have been possible without Asia. Although, for the developing world as a whole, the poverty rate fell from 43.1 percent in 1990 to 25.1 percent in 2005 and to 20.6 percent in 2010, thus meeting the MDG global target, when excluding Asia the extreme poverty rate would have been 24.9 percent in 1990 and 20.5 percent in 2010. Clearly, the rest of the developing world would not have been able to halve its 1990 poverty rate before, say, 2030.