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The 2010s may be remembered as the decade when the global 1% accumulated unfathomable wealth, but it was also perhaps the best decade ever for the world’s poorest people.
The big picture: The rate of extreme poverty around the world was cut in half over the past decade (15.7% in 2010 to 7.7% now), and it was all but eradicated in China. A tipping point was reached in 2018, according to a Brookings analysis, with more than half the world in the middle class or above for the first time in history.
The other side: There was only one group that fared better over that time, Banerjee and Duflo write in Foreign Affairs: the global 1%. “The rich in already rich countries plus an increasing number of superrich in the developing world … captured an astounding 27% of global growth.” An examination of Forbes’ billionaire lists over the past decade tells much of the story:
The global picture: There were 130 billionaires in Asia a decade ago. Now there are 729, and 324 just in mainland China.
As the global 1% captured more and more of the pie, Banerjee and Duflo write, “The 49% of people below them, which includes almost everybody in the United States and Europe, lost out, and their incomes stagnated.”
The bottom line: Extreme poverty has fallen but not been eliminated, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where poverty rates are stubbornly high and fast-growing populations mean more people now live in poverty than a decade ago.
A decade ago, Freedom House warned of an emerging trend: Freedom had declined around the world for three consecutive years after a prolonged period of democratization.
Why it matters: That decline has continued every year since.
The general trend is troubling, though.
Three to a bike in Kinshasa, which will soon have a bigger population than New York. Photo: Ute Grabowsky/Photothek via Getty Images
This decade began just after a historic inflection point, with 51% of the world's population living in urban areas.
By the numbers: That proportion has continued to rise steadily, to 55% as of 2018. It's climbed faster in China, from 48% to 59%. That's an additional 180 million people living in cities.
Nigeria just became majority-urban in 2018, but urbanization in the West African giant will grow more dramatic still over the next decade.
What's next: By 2030, Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will join the list, replacing Osaka.
Flashback: New York City held the No. 10 spot until last year. European cities that would have been top 10 in decades past — Moscow (24th), Paris (28th), London (37th) — keep sliding.
Japan’s Welfare Ministry made an unwelcome projection last year: The birth rate now lags so far behind the death rate that the country’s indigenous population will fall by one person per minute in 2020.
Zoom in: There are actually 10 countries where populations are expected to shrink even faster than Japan's in the coming decades. All of them are in Eastern Europe.
The flipside: The global population rose from 6.9 billion to 7.8 billion over the decade, and it is expected to climb to 8.5 billion by 2030.
No two countries went to war over the past decade. In fact, that hasn't happened since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The big picture: Today's deadliest conflicts are civil wars and insurgencies, though some of the fighting — Syria, Libya, Yemen — is fueled by foreign powers.
By the numbers: The number of people killed in armed conflicts has fallen from a recent high of 143,409 in 2014 — the height of the Syrian civil war — to 77,392 last year, per the Uppsala Conflict Data Program.
Armed conflicts are a major driver of the world's most dire food crises.
Violence and hunger in turn drive migration.
Bonus points if you can name the volcano. Photo: Signy Asta Gudmundsdottir/NordicPhotos/Getty Images
Answers here in a great photo collection by Axios’ Rebecca Falconer.
The world's happiest countries do this a lot. Photo: TF-Images/Getty Images
It's hardly surprising that Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland top the UN's latest World Happiness report. Nordic countries always dominate such lists.
But, but, but: Some countries became much happier, and others much less happy, over the past decade. Overall, happiness increased between 2008 and 2018 in 78 of the 132 countries in the rankings (based on "how happy citizens perceive themselves to be").
The big picture: Heading into 2020, one could argue there's more to smile about around the world than a decade ago — even if it doesn't always feel that way.
Christmas Eve in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. May your 2020 be merry and bright. Photo: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
''I am resigning ahead of time. I have realized that I have to do so. Russia must enter the next millennium with new politicians, with new personalities and with new smart, strong and energetic people.''— Boris Yeltsin, New Year's Eve 1999
"There will be no power vacuum, even for a moment."— Vladimir Putin, New Year's Eve 1999
Go deeper: Our special report on 20 years of Putin