Prioritize the Poorest

Helping the Bottom Billion is Good -- and Good Business

Students display their work at the Anganwadi centre in
Jamsaut village in Bihar. (Gates Foundation/flickr)

The world of international development has long been divided between idealists and pragmatists. The idealists give more weight to addressing the needs of the world's most destitute. The pragmatists are driven more by impact at the aggregate level, such as increasing GDP per capita. A growing body of evidence, however, suggests that the interests of these groups coincide. In many cases, it is most cost-effective to focus on the poorest groups.

In part, the convergence is due to the fact that, although many development indicators have improved at the national level -- including an overall reduction in poverty and child mortality and increasing school enrollment -- there are growing disparities within many countries. That is, as broad indicators improve, the gulf between the best and worst off is widening. A recent UNICEF study found

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