Mapping Poverty for Better Development Planning


This remarkable map of Latin America portrays infant mortality rates, a widely used proxy measure of poverty. It demonstrates clearly that although Latin America has generally low infant mortality rates, overall poverty is very unevenly distributed throughout the region. Moreover, the relationship between this pattern of human well-being and broader geographic constraints is also clear. The mountainous, land-locked areas of Bolivia and southern Peru have high rates of infant mortality and poverty as do the arid region of Brazil’s northeast has much higher poverty than more humid parts of the continent including Chile and Argentina.

This map is an example of how advances in data collection and technology can be used to put poverty-related indicators into meaningful visual context. To increase awareness and promote usage of GIS-based applications in development strategies, the Center for International Earth Science Information Network and the World Bank produced a series of maps detailing spatially referenced data on hunger, infant mortality, income poverty and other related indicators at the global, regional, national and local scales.

This joint initiative makes accessible a stunning array of geo-referenced poverty estimates, which in many cases represent poverty rates at very high levels of spatial resolution. For many countries, poverty estimates are available at local levels, representing many hundreds or thousands of geographic units. These collections make possible radically new approaches in poverty reduction strategies, in aid evaluation, and in the general understanding of the geographic drivers of development.

This particular map on Infant Mortality in Latin America is one of more than 150 subnational poverty maps available for download on CIESIN’s Web site. The Web site also provides access to a large collection of spatial and tabular data sets which consolidates subnational poverty estimates from a large number of global sources. This unique collection was made possible by CIESIN's collaboration with the World Bank Development Economics Data Group and Development Economics Research Group, with funding from the Japan Policy and Human Resource Development Fund.