According to the UN Millennium Project, more than 1 billion people live on less than a dollar a day, and 2.7 billion people live on less than two dollars a day. These people are considered to be living in extreme poverty. To try and put this into perspective, the 2015 poverty guidelines for the United States consider people with incomes of and under $32.2 a day ($11,770 a year) as living in poverty. For families of two, three, and four, this becomes $43.6 a day, $55.0 a day, and $66.4 a day respectively.
I’m not a big fan of throwing this statistic around for the simple reason that it is difficult for a middle class citizen living in the United States to begin to understand how living on two dollars a day is physically possible. The key here is that just as the cost of living between Manhattan and Dayton varies, the cost of living between the United States and other countries also varies significantly. In many other countries, two U.S. dollars have much more purchasing power than they do in the United States.
I don’t write this post to demean the struggle of the 2.7 billion people living on less than two dollars a day; instead, I’m hoping to give people living in the United States a better appreciation of what living on two dollars a day might look like and how that compares to our own citizens’ struggles with poverty. At some point during my summer immersion with ETHOS, I will be spending a week living on two dollars a day, which is equal to about 125 rupees. I’ll record all of my expenses during the week, as well as any free public services that I make use of.
While my expenses will focus on food, it’s important to know that people actually struggling to survive on this amount of money also have to find room for housing, healthcare, transportation, clothing, or just do without. Probably the biggest challenge is the lack of upwards mobility available to people living in these conditions.
If you believe I’ve stated anything incorrectly above, please let me know. After all, I’m an engineer and not a poverty studies major. Thoughts?