Living on Two Dollars a Day
The phrase “living on two dollars a day” gets tossed around with great frequency as researchers, advocacy networks and politicians alike attempt to understand the magnitude and scope of global poverty. However, establishing a global poverty line isn’t so easy, and the information tends to get muddled as data is constantly updated and poverty measurements vary from place to place.

So what does living on two dollars a day really mean? Below are five key facts about what living on two dollars a day looks like and what it means for global poverty:

  1. It is a daily reality for many. As of 2012, when the World Bank most recently updated the global poverty line, it was found that 12.7 percent of the world’s population was living at or below the poverty line. Meaning that 896 million people are living on two dollars a day or less.
  2. The calculations are tricky. The poverty line and the two dollars a day measure are calculated on a cost of living that allow for the minimum nutrition, clothing and shelter needed to survive to be met.
  3. The poverty line can vary widely both within a country and between countries. In India alone, the poverty line ranges from the equivalent of $2.13 per day in rural areas to $3.08 per day in urban areas. Meaning that the severity of living on two dollars a day will look different depending on where you are.
  4. Living on two dollars a day or less is considered extreme poverty for a reason. Though the poverty line in the U.S. is just $15.77 per day, the average daily consumer spending for an American amounts to about $93.
  5. Progress is being made. The number of people living on two dollars a day or less is expected to fall below 10 percent in the coming years, and the World Bank has now set a goal to end extreme poverty within a generation. To do this, they intend to have no more than three percent of the world’s population below the poverty line by 2030.

Measuring the number of people living in extreme poverty across the globe is no simple task. While living on two dollars a day estimates brings us closer to grasping the impact of extreme poverty on the world, it is still possible that the scope of global poverty is not fully understood. No matter how it is measured, global poverty continues to be a significant issue for developed and developing countries alike. Continued support and development assistance will be key to ensuring that one day soon the world is free from extreme poverty.

Sara Christensen

Photo: The New York Times