16 January 2013

There is no poverty in America...

... was the subject of a recent household debate. I'm talking, of course, about real, deep, absolute poverty, of the one dollar per day variety (at purchasing power parity, meaning already adjusted for the big price differences between rich and poor countries).

Exhibit A:
"By international standards the US poverty line of $23,050 corrected for exchange rates is around the average of world income, and is deemed a comfortably middle-class income in India" -- Deidre McCloskey.
Exhibit B:

A 1996 survey of users of homeless shelters and soup kitchens found a median monthly individual income of around $250 in inner cities in America (quite a lot higher than the $35 per month earned by about a billion people).

Exhibit C:

The housemate sent me a link to this paper which shows some quite shocking life expectancy outcomes for certain groups in America. If you pick out some of the very worst, you get life expectancy for black males in America of 68.7, or for Native Americans in South Dakota of 58 years. Compare this to the life expectancy of Rwandans, all Rwandans, not just those living in poverty, and you get 55 years.

And despite all this, it seems to be quite normal to feel more guilty about poverty in America or England.

Is there really poverty in America? Should we care? Can we just call it something different in America to be clear about the distinction?


Jina Moore's comments on this post below are excellent (though I think we still have some disagreements), as are her two articles in the CS Monitor about poverty in America here and here


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