Poverty could be shrinking. Eleven years ago the United Nations challenged the world to halve extreme poverty by 2015. Right now it looks as if developing nations will reach that goal. The World Bank says they're already 80 percent of the way there.
The number of people living on less than $1.25 a day is projected to be 883 million in 2015, compared with 1.4 billion in 2005 and 1.8 billion in 1990, according World Bank statistics.
The outlook for developing countries to reduce hunger, enroll children in primary school, and reach a number of related UN-set benchmarks is similarly good.
"Their progress is much better than I expected," says Delfin Go, lead economist at the World Bank's Development Prospects Group.
Globally, women's lot is rising, both in absolute terms and relative to men. In developed countries there's an increased consensus supporting formal legal rights and guarantees of equality for women, says a World Bank report on the subject. In many – but not all – developing countries, more women are literate and their overall education level is catching up to men's levels.