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Generations of news media have branded the academic discipline of economics "the dismal science" for its gloomy forecasts.

But Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, calls himself "an optimistic economist" and has reported compelling evidence that the global economic glass is at least half-full. His contrarian 2011 book, Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding—And How We Can Improve the World Even More (Basic Books), takes an evidence-based approach to the study of global poverty.

Each year, billions of dollars in aid are spent to achieve the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals. Three of the eight goals directly connect to the welfare of children: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, and reducing child-mortality rates by two-thirds.

UN member states adopted the goals in 2000 and set a deadline of 2015, now 18 months away. Kenny said that while not all those goals will be achieved by then, the progress has been significant. He recently spoke with Christianity Today senior editor of global journalism Timothy C. Morgan about his findings.

Your book describes a historic decline in global poverty. But hasn't the worldwide economic recession bumped poverty rates back up?

If I were writing the book today, I would be more positive. What has become clear is that the African continent, sub-Saharan Africa in particular, is having one of its best decades ever. Some of the fastest-growing countries in the world have been in Africa, and these countries over the past decade have doubled their gross domestic product. It's really an impressive performance.

We have seen quite dramatic poverty reduction ...

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June 2013

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