Economic Perspective: Economic Improvements in the World

NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences professor Dr. Mike Walden working in a recording studio.


“Today’s program looks at economic improvements in the world. Mike, it seems like every day we read and hear about problems in the world related to conflict, storms and poverty. It’s easy to get the feeling that things are getting worse rather than better. How accurate are these daily snapshots?”


“Well they’re certainly accurate as a snapshot, but I think what they can miss is many longer-run changes that may have been very positive. We just have a new report from the World Bank, a very prestigious organization, that documents some of these changes which are very positive.”

“For example: as recently as 1950, around the time we were born, 70 percent of the world’s population, 70 percent were living in poverty. Today that is down. It’s still higher than we’d like, but it’s down to 50 percent, and the trend is continuing to go down.”

“Similarly half of the world’s households are now considered to be in the middle class or above in terms of their earning power, and they’re ability to spend on more than necessities. Many diseases that were common, again especially when we were born in the 1950’s have been literally eradicated.”

“Lastly, death from war. We always hear about conflict in the world, and certainly it’s occurring and people are dying, but death from wars in terms of the aggregate numbers each year has actually been going down. So I think it’s useful to latch onto some numbers and some trends that are positive, and certainly these trends I think put a smile on our faces.”

Mike Walden is a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Extension Economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University who teaches and writes on personal finance, economic outlook and public policy.

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