What if three quarters of the world's poor live (and have always lived) in Low Aid Countries?

Working and discussion papers
May 2012
Jonathan Glennie
This Background Note posits that rich countries' focus on aid, as the key tool to help end poverty, may need careful examination. It considers the conventional development narrative of reduced aid dependency from a different perspective, bringing new data to bear on the debate, and producing some surprising information, including:

  • A large majority of poor people (around three quarters) live in Very Low Aid or Low Aid Countries (VLACs and LACs) and have done for at least two decades.

  • 7 out of 10 of the world’s poorest countries have seen aid levels fall as a proportion of GNI.

  • More poor people, not fewer, now live in countries more dependent on aid.

  • About three quarters of the world’s poorest live in countries that receive less than 2% of their annual income in aid.

By considering the geography of poverty through the lens of aid as a proportion of GNI, rather than the more usual standard-of-living metrics, this Background Note presents figures that indicate the necessity of further research on the role and purpose of aid.