Gap between rich and poorest widest since the nineties

The gap between rich and poor is at its highest since the 1990s and is growing – with children hit hardest, according to our new report, Born Equal, published today.

Thursday 1 November 2012

In some countries, the gulf between the richest and poorest families has increased by up to 179% over the past two decades according to the findings of Born Equal.

What’s more, the gap between rich and poor children has grown by 35% and in some countries more than twice the numbers of poor children die before the age of five than rich children.

Our report, which comes as David Cameron prepares to co-chair a high level UN panel on global poverty today, highlights that children are hit twice as hard by inequality, despite its causes not being of their making.

Poorest of the poor excluded

The report argues that against a backdrop of overwhelming progress (extreme income poverty has dropped from 2 billion in 1990 to less than 1.3 billion today and child mortality has almost halved) the poorest of the poor have too often been excluded.

This means that children living in the same country may have vastly different chances of surviving to the age of five, getting a good education and eating a nutritious diet.

According to the report, now that 70% of the world’s poorest people live in middle income countries, tackling inequality is one of the most effective ways to accelerate progress towards eradicating global poverty.

Inequality must be addressed

Save the Children’s Chief Executive, Justin Forsyth, said: “In recent decades the world has made dramatic progress in cutting child deaths and improving opportunities for children; we are now reaching a tipping point where preventable child deaths could be eradicated in our lifetime.

"But this will only happen if we redouble our efforts and tackle inequality. Unless inequality is addressed, the MDGs and any future development framework will simply not succeed in maintaining or accelerating progress.

"What’s more, it will hold individual countries – and the world – back from experiencing real growth and prosperity,” he added. 

Born Equal also highlights:

  • That in most of the 32 developing countries looked at the rich increased their share of national income since the 1990s. :
  • In almost a fifth of the countries (Bolivia, Peru, Zambia, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Cameroon) the incomes of the poorest had fallen.
  • In Nigeria the poorest children are more than twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday than the richest children. :
  • In Tanzania child mortality in the richest quintile fell from 135 to 90 per 1,000 births over the research period while the poorest quintile hardly saw any progress with a modest fall of 140 to 137 per 1,000 births.
  • Disparities also affect rich countries such as Canada where low-income children are 2.5 times more likely to have problems with vision, hearing, speech or mobility.
  • In Brazil – one of eight countries researchers focussed on in-depth – rapid economic growth has been accompanied by a decline in the country’s income inequality alongside dramatic poverty reduction and improvements for child well-being.
  • Inequalities in gender, race and geographic location also affect children’s opportunities to thrive.