A Dollar a Day is a Poor Way to Measure Poverty


As I think about returning to Africa, I keep reading articles and hearing organizations quoting the “dollar a day” statistic. I’ve always wanted to write a response to this. Here it is

We’ve all heard it. “A billion people live on less than a dollar a day and another 2 billion live on less than $2 a day”. Intended to create shock value, I’ve heard a version of this statistic so many times it has ceased to mean anything to me. While I understand that putting poverty in simplistic terms like a dollar a day helps people in rich countries understand it better (and increase donations), I want to propose that poverty is significantly more complex and hopeful than our “dollar a day” paradigm.


First, let’s look at how a dollar a day is defined. Contrary to what I thought, the measurement does not take one US dollar, convert…

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