There seems to be research showing that world poverty rates have declined since 1800, see eg this. Is there any research on world poverty rates before this period? I am guessing that during this period poverty in much of the world would have gone up as a result of European colonisation.

  • $\begingroup$ How would you define poverty pre 1800? $\endgroup$
    – Giskard
    Mar 7, 2016 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ maybe infant mortality or availability of food/shelter? $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2016 at 23:18
  • $\begingroup$ This paper may interest you: nber.org/papers/w8460 $\endgroup$
    – BB King
    Mar 21, 2016 at 0:07

1 Answer 1


This is only for Europe unfortunately, but Bob Allen has a famous paper in which he presents reconstructed data for real wages in different European cities from 1350 all the way to 1799:

Allen, Robert C. "The great divergence in European wages and prices from the Middle Ages to the First World War." Explorations in economic history 38.4 (2001): 411-447.

From real wages and price data, he then infers a measure of (extreme) poverty.

Look at Figure 5 in the paper. The scale of the y-axis is a measure of poverty in which 1 is the poverty threshold. Values above 1 on the y-axis correspond to real wages lower than survival rate (i.e. that do not allow a survival caloric intake), and values above 1 indicate a real wage above survival rate.


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