dollar a day
The $1 a day poverty line drawn up by the United Nations in the 1980s has been called a “successful failure” by Lant Pritchett. Pritchett is an ex-World Bank economist who is now Professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard University’s Kennedy School.

He has described the dollar a day measurement of poverty as a successful PR stunt, which has raised awareness to the issue but has failed to translate to real improvements to the lives of the poor.

His main criticism is that donating money has been encouraged rather than economic development, which is greatly needed. Pritchett believes that at the expense of developing the world’s poorest economies for sustained growth and prosperity, we have just been throwing money at the problem, which has not been an effective solution.

Perhaps this $1 benchmark for measuring global poverty has been set too low? Someone earning $1.25 or even $3 a day still lives in dire poverty and the target number, according to Pritchett, should be $10 a day.

Regardless, the $1-a-day poverty line has for some time been out of date; in 2005 it was readjusted to modern prices and is now set at $1.25 a day. This has played a valuable role to tackling poverty over the years, according to economist Martin Ravallion, who came up with the catchy figure in the 1980s while having dinner with his wife.

Like others at the World Bank in D.C., Ravallion had noticed that poor countries were drawing their poverty lines at around $370 a year. Chatting to his wife one evening at the dinner table, Ravallion had a “eureka” moment and realised that by dividing $370 by 365 you get just over $1 – thus the simple and catchy $1 a day idea was born.

But here’s where things get complicated. The $1 a day does not mean $1 converted into local currency, say Indian Rupee. Instead economists use a formula called PPP, Purchasing Power Parity, to figure out the value of an equivalent basket of goods a dollar would buy you in the U.S.

This forms the basis of the poverty line. If you cannot afford that basket of goods worth $1 in the U.S, you are under the poverty line.

Despite the apparent contention that this way of measuring poverty has caused, it is true that the $1 a day idea has caught the public attention and raised awareness about the issue. In fact, the first UN Millennium Goal aimed at reducing global poverty aims to: “halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day.”

This high profile target was agreed upon by the UN General Assembly and embraced by most of the world’s development institutions.

Encouragingly, the World Bank has publicly announced only this month, that the goal has been met early.

Charles Bell

Sources: BBC, World Bank
Photo: Flickr

how to help poor people
Helping the poor seems like a huge task, but nonprofits around the world do it every day, and it is less expensive than you think.

Countless commercials and advertisements on how to help the poor tell people that many of the impoverished people world-wide can live on less than $1 a day. That’s all it would take to help someone in need – $1 a day, $7 a week or roughly $30 a month. For that little, you could save someone’s life.

Now, the impoverished people world-wide have a bit more problems than just trying to live day to day, but there are countless charities that help tackle those problems for the same amount of money.  $1 a day helps to run many of the nonprofits who know specific ways in how to help the poor.

There are nonprofits dedicated to providing vaccinations to children to prevent disease, like Shot@Life.  There are charities dedicated to advocacy and monetary gifts, like The Borgen Project. There are even nonprofits dedicated to providing mosquito nets to prevent the spread of malaria in impoverished nations, such as Nothing But Net.

It doesn’t cost much to help someone who needs it, and it doesn’t have to “waste” any time.  It takes a few seconds to click a button and donate $1 to any one of the nonprofits listed above.  They do the work with the help of monetary gifts and donations of any amount.

If you want to do more, learning how to help the poor is simple.  There are volunteer positions at any nonprofit where you can spread the word, raise awareness, petition your representatives, and even go to impoverished nations in order to help people.

But in the modern age, you don’t have to.  Helping the poor is as simple as clicking a button and donating some money to someone who needs it.  It doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking or a big task to saddle yourself with.  It can be as easy as giving $1 a day.

– Cara Morgan

Sources: The Borgen Project, Feeding America, Global Issues, Nothing But Nets, Shot@Life
Photo: Madadgar India

Living Below the Line: Attempting to Understand
In an effort to help people understand what it means to live below the line of poverty, the Global Poverty Project organizes an annual campaign to raise funds and awareness for the 1.4 million people living in poverty around the globe. While the campaign strives to gain funding, it is also dedicated to helping people understand what a life of poverty means. Participants live for five days on the equivalent of about $1.50 USD. Since the beginning of this year, 20,000 individuals have taken the challenge alongside the GPP and a dozen partnered nonprofit organizations across three continents. This year the campaign took place from April 29 to May 3 in Canada, The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and The United States. However, the GPP is taking donations till May 31 and the challenge is open to anyone that wants to do it year-round.

In the United Kingdom, living below the line means living on £1 for five days. One couple, Jenna and Stuart Wills, fine dining enthusiasts, share their experience on living below the line. In a country where one pound, approximately $1.50 USD, doesn’t even buy a bus ticket, a sandwich, or elderberry cordial, the couple knew it was going to be rough.

At the beginning of the week, the couple decided to buy the cheapest staple foods they could find, rice and noodles but realized that they had spent more than half of their five days budget. Consequently, it was difficult to spread the remainder of the budget over the rest of the week. The organic, fair-trade and costly foods that the Wills’ usually dined on were set aside and bargain buys that weren’t quite as delectable were their only alternative. The couple learned to plan grocery-shopping trips to stores and markets close to closing time in order to buy foods that were to expire soon and slashed in price. As the days wore on, lack of luxury food items as simple as coffee took a toll on the couple in high tempers and mood swings.

While the challenge was difficult at times, the couple admits that what they endured for five days is nothing compared to true poverty. They recognize that they have never once wondered when they would eat next, they bragged about their bargain finds on Facebook, and went about their daily lives. Whenever they felt a bit hungry, they had the option to put another piece of bread in the toaster. The couple raised £435 for their chosen charity, Oxfam, and have taken the challenge as an opportunity to appreciate what they have and spread the word about extreme poverty around the world.

– Kira Maixner

Source Birmingham Mail, Live Below the Line US
Photo MSN Food UK