In an article where the somewhat controversial philosopherÂ Peter Singerâ€”author of Famine, Affluence and Moralityâ€”argues thatÂ the teaching of the issues surrounding world poverty should not be confined to specialist courses and should be an educational priority*,Â I was shocked by the clarification of something I’ve oft wondered about the definition of poverty:
The World Bank defines extreme poverty as not having enough income to meet the most basic human needs for adequate food, water, shelter, clothing, sanitation, health care, or education. One widely quoted statistic is that a billion people are living on less than one U.S. dollar per day. That was the World Bank’s poverty line until 2008, when better data led to a new poverty line of $1.25 per day. As a result, the number of people whose income puts them under the new poverty line is 1.4 billion.
On hearing the “$1.25 a day” figure, the thought may cross your mind that in many developing countries it is possible to live much more cheaply than in industrialized nations. But the World Bank has already made that adjustment in purchasing power, so those it classifies as living in extreme poverty are existing on a daily total consumption of goods and servicesÂ â€” whether earned or homegrownÂ â€” comparable to the amount of goods and services that can be bought in the United States for $1.25.
The original article has, since posting this, gone behind a paywall. Similar information can be found in Random House’s excerpt of his Singer’s latest book, The Life You Can Save.