The two economic developments that have garnered the most attention in recent years are the concentration of massive wealth in the richest one percent of the world’s population and the tremendous, growth-driven decline in extreme poverty in the developing world, especially in China. But just as important has been the emergence of large middle classes in developing countries around the planet.
From Wall Street to K Street to Main Street, pessimism about the global economy has become commonplace. The world economy may have finally emerged from the financial crisis of 2008, but according to conventional wisdom, it remains fragile and unsteady, just one disruption away from yet another perilous downturn.
The downing of a Russian passenger plane over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula last October, for which the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) claimed responsibility, may ultimately prove more consequential than the horrific attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, that followed. Western security officials had long worried that their countries’ own citizens would conduct attacks after returning home from Iraq or Syria or strike out as “lone wolf” terrorists.
According to a new McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, advancing women’s equality could add $12 trillion to GDP by 2025. This seminal report, entitled “The Power of Parity,” is the product of research from ninety-five countries on the relationship between gender parity and economic growth. Kweilin Ellingrud, a lead researcher on the report, and Christopher Ruhm, whose research examines the economic effects of work/family policies, joined the Women and Foreign Policy program for a discussion about the economic imperative of promoting gender equality. This roundtable was generously sponsored by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
After dithering for decades, governments finally seem to be paying serious attention to the problem of global climate change. Late last year, at the Paris climate conference, they adopted a major new agreement to limit global warming, beginning a process to strengthen commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over time.
Nearly 3,000 years ago, according to the Old Testament, an army of Arameans, led by King Ben-hadad, besieged the West Bank city of Samaria. Cut off from its agricultural hinterlands, the city soon ran out of food.
During the past century, economic inequality in the developed world has traced a massive U-shaped curve—starting high, curving downward, then curving sharply back up again. In 1915, the richest one percent of Americans earned roughly 18 percent of all national income. Their share plummeted in the 1930s and remained below ten percent through the 1970s, but by 2007, it had risen to 24 percent.
When it comes to wealth and income, people tend to compare themselves to the people they see around them rather than to those who live on the other side of the world. The average Frenchman, for example, probably does not care how manyChinese exceed his own standard of living, but that Frenchman surely would pay attention if he started lagging behind his fellow citizens.
As growth slows in mature economies across the developed world, economic inequality has reachednew heights. Defined in terms of the shares of disposable income of households across the economic spectrum, adjusted for varying needs, inequality today in the United States is significantly higher than it was a generation ago.
Since the early 1990s, daily life in poor countries has been changing profoundly for the better: one billion people have escaped extreme poverty, average incomes have doubled, infant death rates have plummeted, millions more girls have enrolled in school, chronic hunger has been cut almost in half, deaths from malaria and other diseases have declined dramatically, democracy has spread far and wide, and the incidence of war—even with Syria and other conflicts—has fallen by half.
Almost five years ago, mass protests swept the Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak from power. Most local and foreign observers believed that Egypt was on the path to a democratic future; some even proclaimed that democracy had arrived.
Amy Pope, U.S. deputy homeland security advisor and deputy assistant to the president at the White House National Security Council, joined CFR for a discussion on how the networks, talents, and perspectives of diverse populations help the United States to ensure the safety and security of its homeland against 21st century threats. Pope reflected on how women and civil society help to strengthen community resilience and combat radicalization, and what policies, strategies, and tactics the U.S. government can employ to best partner with them and address the risks that they face.
Amina Mohammed will join us for a discussion on how to implement the ambitious post-2015 agenda. This roundtable meeting is part of a new high-level series, in collaboration with the UN Foundation, to explore issues related to implementation of the sustainable development agenda.
Learn more about CFR’s mission and its work over the past year in the 2015 Annual Report. The Annual Report spotlights new initiatives, high-profile events, and authoritative scholarship from CFR experts, and includes a message from CFR President Richard N. Haass. Read and download »