Abject Poverty Overview and Stories from Bright Hope

You may not realize it, but right now at least 698 million people are stuck living in extreme poverty.¹  That’s approximately 9% of the world’s population. Most of the extreme poor live in either Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia, but not exclusively. 

Although the number of extreme poor had been steadily decreasing, in 2020 those numbers started skyrocketing. The COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and record inflation have pushed over 70 million people into extreme poverty. ²

This truth may seem overwhelming and many of want to entirely ignore the reality of abject poverty, but at Bright Hope, we have a proven system to help struggling families increase their incomes and opportunities for a bright future. Read more to find out how! 



  1. What is Abject Poverty?
  2. What’s the Difference between Poverty and Abject Poverty?
  3. Other Types of Poverty
  4. Who Lives in Abject Poverty?
  5. Final Thoughts


What is Abject Poverty?

The U.N. has established a universal standard to measure global poverty. Those who make a daily income of $2.15 or less are the “extreme poor.” (At Bright Hope, we round this number to $2 to simplify.) 

The extreme poor often feel hopeless and forgotten. They expend all their energy trying to find work to pay for their family’s most basic needs. Children frequently go to bed hungry. Families live in overcrowded, rudimentary housing structures, and many practice open defecation. Educational opportunities are nonexistent. Most receive little to no medical care. The overwhelming majority have no access to safe, clean water. It is a hard life! 

Extreme Poverty in Three Questions

What’s The Difference Between Poverty And Abject Poverty?

Relative Poverty

In most cases, individuals living in poverty still have access to food, clean water, shelter, government assistance and basic health services. These individuals may be underemployed, but still have jobs and some form of ongoing income.


Abject or Extreme Poverty

Those living in abject or “extreme” poverty, on the other hand, barely survive on less than $1.90 per day. They have no access to clean water, not enough food to meet basic dietary needs, no medical care, and no hope for change. Practically, abject poverty looks like parents forgoing meals to feed their kids one small bowl of rice each day, foraging for edible plants, and drinking dirty water from a lake an hour away from home. And “home” is usually a mud hut with a thatch roof and dirt floors.


Are There Other Types of Poverty?

If you do some more research, you will discover that there are six different types of poverty in the United States: situational, generational, absolute, relative, urban, and rural. Here’s a description of each.

Situational Poverty

This type of poverty can invade almost anyone’s life when a devastating health crisis, sudden job loss, or divorce occurs. Situational poverty is often temporary but threatens to push families living paycheck-to-paycheck into a more permanent type of poverty.

Generational Poverty

Families stuck in poverty for more than two generations fall into this category. Generational poverty conditions family members to live in survival mode rather than planning mode. Often, they can’t even see a way out of poverty so creative problem solving to break the cycle doesn’t happen.

Absolute Poverty

Individuals and families stuck in absolute poverty have NO resources, not enough food for basic survival, no access to health care, and are often homeless. Among developed nations, America has the highest rate of food insecurity.

Relative Poverty

Families living in relative poverty make less than 50% of the average income and live paycheck-to-paycheck, but they can still put food on the table.

Rural Poverty

This type of poverty includes lack of access to high-speed internet, other technology, childcare, and education. During the pandemic shift to online schooling, kids confined by rural poverty had little to no access to educational instruction.

Urban Poverty

Those enduring urban poverty may have access to internet and technology, but they struggle to find affordable, safe housing, and face issues with sanitation and overcrowding. 


Who Lives In Abject Poverty?

But what does it look like to live on less than $2 a day? We would like to introduce you to some of the amazing individuals living in abject poverty we have met over the years. 

Final Thoughts

Whether we call it extreme poverty or abject poverty, it’s devastating to the long-term physical, emotional, and spiritual health of those stuck in it. But we can do something and truly be on a mission to eliminate abject poverty

For more than 50 years, Bright Hope has been providing sustainable solutions to help struggling families in abject poverty break the cycle permanently! Please join us in our quest to share Hope for Today, Tomorrow, and Eternity with the forgotten poor around the world.



    1. Poverty trends: global, regional and national – Development Initiatives
    2. Addressing the Cost Living in Developing Countries- United Nations Development Programme
    3. Eldery photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com
Malia Rodriguez
Malia Rodriguez

Malia loves serving as a Copywriter for Bright Hope, where she has the privilege to share how God is working among the vulnerable and caring for the extreme poor around the world. As a homeschool mom, Malia strives to develop in her kids compassionate, generous, and caring hearts. Malia and her husband, Matt, live in the Washington, DC area with their son and daughter.