Are you personally poor? Do you consider yourself poor? Are the people you see in your daily life poor? How much of the population are poor? How poor? These are questions that perplex and give rise to feelings of magnanimity in us.
Who is the poorest of the poor in the USA. Probably a homeless man? Take the homeless man in the USA. He probably sleeps outdoors in a tent or box in summer. Has access to clothing in the winter through the Salvation Army and many other charities. He also has access to the best healthcare in the world. (no matter how destitute a person is in the USA if he or she shows up at a public hospital, needing medical assistance, they by Law, must receive it). He misses some meals, but almost certainly gets one good meal offered to him a day. In winter he hopefully has access to a homeless shelter at night.
Now lets take the lower class Haitian. He or She according to the news is now reduced to eating mud cookies. Made with dirt mixed with oil and some other tasty ingredients. That is their one good meal. Live in mosquito infested slums. With raw sewage running down the street, ala middle ages. Has access to the astounding health care system of Haiti. And are subject to violent street gangs.
I’m thinking, that from the Haitians frame of reference, the homeless man in the USA has it pretty good.
How poor is poor in the USA. Poor is defined as a family earning below a certain annual adjusted level, around $16,000. The earned income credit is to boost working poor income up to or above the poverty line. So lets take $15,000 as a figure that is considered poor in the USA. The per capita GDP in the USA is around $17,000.00. So poor, is a family making less than the average individuals per capita GDP.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, the per capita GDP is around $400.00 a year. Allowing two bread winners, that is $800.00 a year for the average couple. Meaning that most families in Sub Saharan Africa are living at about that level. The poor American family making $15,000.00 a year is making 19 times as much.
The cost of living in Sub Saharan Africa is much lower than in the USA you might argue. Not so, due to the leveling affect of the monetary exchange. Dollars should buy the same amount of goods in any country. We know that this is not absolutely true, because of tariffs, taxes, regulation, trade barriers, etc… but in large part, averaged over many countries, this will hold true. Especially as markets are integrated into the global one.
Once again we see that poverty is a matter of perspective, or relative to ones frame of reference. What does this teach us about poverty? That if we want to make a real difference in poverty, the means we should use, is to grow the GDP so that the relative level of poverty is raised.
When the biggest problem of poor families is obesity, this is unheard of in human history, save for today.