Rural poverty is often discussed in conjunction with spatial inequality, which in this context refers to the inequality between urban and rural areas. Both rural poverty and spatial inequality are global phenomena, but like poverty in general, there are higher rates of rural poverty in developing countries than in developed countries. Eradicating rural poverty through effective policies and economic growth remains a challenge for the international community.
The first target of the past Millennium Development Goals was to decrease the extent of extreme poverty by one-half by the year 2015, which could not be achieved. Poverty remains a predominantly rural problem, with a majority of the world's poor located in rural areas. It is estimated that 76 per cent of the developing world's poor live in rural areas, well above the overall population share living in rural areas, which is only 58 per cent. Disparities between rural and urban areas is on the rise, particularly in many developing and transitional countries.
Globally, rural people and rural places tend to be disadvantaged relative to their urban counterparts and poverty rates increase as rural areas become more remote. Individuals living in rural areas tend to have less access to social services, exacerbating the effects of rural poverty.
Rural poverty is often a product of poor infrastructure that hinders development and mobility. Rural areas tend to lack sufficient roads that would increase access to agricultural inputs and markets. Without roads, the rural poor are cut off from technological development and emerging markets in more urban areas. Poor infrastructure hinders communication, resulting in social isolation among the rural poor, many of whom have limited access to media and news outlets.
Such isolation hinders integration with urban society and established markets, which could result in greater development and economic security. Moreover, poor or nonexistent irrigation systems threaten agricultural yields because of uncertainty in the supply of water for crop production. Many poor rural areas lack any irrigation to store or pump water, resulting in fewer crops, fewer days of employment and less productivity. Both a lack of roads and insufficient irrigation systems result in greater Work Intensity in many rural communities.