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The Best Ways to Fight Extreme Poverty

Many of the UN’s proposed development targets for the next 15 years are linked to poverty reduction. But, with some targets able to yield much greater returns than others, world leaders must choose wisely.

COPENHAGEN – In 1950, people in South Korea and Pakistan earned roughly the same amount of money annually. Today, the two countries are scarcely comparable. South Korean’s per capita income has grown 23-fold since then, while Pakistan has experienced only a three-fold increase.

How we can help more of the world’s poorest countries emulate South Korea’s success is one of the most important questions facing the world today. Better economic outcomes mean empowering entire populations with better health, more education, longer life, and less vulnerability to challenges like natural disasters.

Many of the United Nations’ proposed 169 development targets for the next 15 years are, at their heart, concerned with poverty reduction. But not all targets are equally good. The Copenhagen Consensus Center, of which I am director, recently asked 60 teams of economists to evaluate the benefits and costs of these proposed targets, which will come into force to replace the Millennium Development Goals in September.

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