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650 million escape extreme poverty. Thanks China!

March 1, 2012: 5:54 PM ET

Extreme poverty in the developing world is on the decline, according to estimates released by the World Bank. And you can thank China's powerhouse economy for most of it.

Nearly 650 million people escaped extreme poverty -- living on less than $1.25 a day -- between 1981  and 2008, according to the World Bank's survey. That poverty line is the average for the world's poorest 10 to 20 countries.



The  numbers have fallen to 1.29 billion people, or 22.4% of the developing world's population, from 1.94 billion people, or 52.2%.

Much of the drop can be attributed to economic progress made in East Asia, particularly China. In the early 1980s, East Asia had the highest rate of extreme poverty, with a staggering 77% of the population living below $1.25 a day. By 2008, this share had fallen to 14%.

Not including China, the developing world's extreme poverty rate fell to 25.2% in 2008, from 40.5%. But the number of people remained roughly the same at 1.1 billion.

The World Bank survey is based on consumption and income, adjusted for inflation and purchasing power.

Still, the World Bank warns, extreme poverty remains a serious problem.

"The developing world as a whole has made considerable progress in fighting extreme poverty, but the 663 million people who moved above the poverty lines typical of the poorest countries are still poor by the standards of middle- and high-income countries," said Martin Ravallion, director of the Bank's Research Group.

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Tami Luhby
Tami Luhby
Senior writer, CNNMoney

Tami Luhby is a senior writer at CNNMoney and covers income inequality, state fiscal problems, unemployment, housing policy and other economic issues. Luhby previously covered personal finance for Newsday and banking for Crain's New York Business.

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