According to 2011 data released on Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau, 15% of individuals in the United States live below the poverty line. While down from 15.1% last year, it remains statistically unchanged and near a record high. Today, more than 46 million people live in poverty in America, more than at any point in the country’s history.
However, compared to the poorest countries in the world, the poverty rate in the U.S. is relatively modest. In some countries, the poverty rate is more than five times the U.S. current figures. In Haiti, the highest in the world, 77% of residents live in poverty. Based on data from the World Bank, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 countries with the highest poverty rates.
The presence of extreme poverty usually coincides with significant obstacles, including limited resources, disease, famine and war. 24/7 Wall St. analyzed how the most impoverished nations ranked in several key areas ranging from level of peace to economic stability, health and education. The poorest countries consistently performed poorly in nearly every case.
Educational attainment and literacy rates are particularly low in these countries. While adult literacy figures were unavailable for many of these nations, those that have reported data were among the worst in the world. In several cases, less than half of eligible children were enrolled in primary education (the equivalent of elementary and middle school). In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, among the poorest countries, less than a third of the relevant population was enrolled in primary education. By comparison, in the United States, nearly 95% were.
Health and healthy decisions are often ignored in these countries. In the 10 nations with the highest poverty rates, HIV prevalence is extremely high. Five of the eight countries for which data are available were in the top 25 (out of more than 200 countries) for HIV cases among people 15 to 49. These include Zimbabwe, which has the fifth-highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate at 14.3%, and Swaziland, which has the highest recorded rate at 25.9%. In the U.S., the rate is just 0.78%.
Life expectancy, not surprising, is also very low. In the U.S., a person born today is projected to live to the age of 78.2. In each of these countries, life expectancy is less than 60 years. In four of these countries, the average resident will not live to see 50.
24/7 Wall St. relied on World Bank data for the percentage of residents who are living below their national poverty lines. Data was only available for 112 developing nations. In addition, we considered GDP per capita, gross domestic product, HIV/AIDS prevalence, life expectancy, unemployment, infant mortality and primary school enrollment — all from the World Bank. Where current data was not available, data from the most recent available year was used. We also relied on the U.S. Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook for additional information on these countries, including the presence of armed conflict and recent natural disasters.
These are the 10 poorest countries in the world.