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Pandemics should be the great equalizer. They affect everyone, rich and poor, Black and White, urban and rural. After all, even the president of the United States contracted the coronavirus. But covid-19 has actually had the opposite effect. The virus is ushering in the greatest rise in economic inequality in decades, both globally and in the United States.
Despite all the concern about inequality within America, it’s worth noting that global inequality — the gap between the richest and poorest around the world — had declined over the past few decades. Thanks to the rise of China, India and other countries, the share of people living in abject poverty (under $2 a day) is less than a quarter of what it was in 1990.
But an astonishing set of statistics compiled by the Economist shows how years of progress are being undone in months. The World Bank estimates that about 100 million people are falling back into extreme poverty this year. Sub-Saharan Africa, which had enjoyed economic growth every year for the past 25 years, will shrink in 2020. The World Food Program — recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize — estimates that the number facing hunger will double this year to 265 million people.