An important study on U.S. poverty by Luke Shaefer and Kathryn Edin gently challenges this assumption. Using an alternative dataset from the one employed for the official U.S. poverty measure, Shaefer and Edin show that millions of Americans live on less than $2 a day—a threshold commonly used to measure poverty in the developing world. Depending on the exact definitions used, they find that up to 5 percent of American households with children are shown to fall under this parsimonious poverty line.Authors: Laurence Chandy and Cory Smith
This brief is organized into two parts. In the first part, we examine the welfare of America’s poorest people using a variety of different data sources and definitions. These generate estimates of the number of Americans living under $2 a day that range from 12 million all the way down to zero. This wide spectrum reflects not only a lack of agreement on how poverty can most reliably be measured, but the particular ways in which poverty is, and isn’t, manifested in the U.S.. In the second part, we reexamine America’s $2 a day poverty in the context of global poverty. We begin by identifying the source and definition of poverty that most faithfully replicates the World Bank’s official poverty measure for the developing world to allow a fairer comparison between the U.S. and developing nations. We then compare the characteristics of poverty in the U.S. and the developing world to provide a more complete picture of the nature of poverty in these different settings. Finally, we explain why comparisons of poverty in the U.S. and the developing world, despite their limitations and pitfalls, are likely to become more common.
Source: Brookings Institution
Download full pdf report | Learn more from the Brookings Institution