Measuring Poverty

On Friday I attended on conference on “Estimating Poverty” by Dr. Sanjay D. Reddy. It was amazing! The main theme was determining how to identify the crucial indicators for measuring the poverty line on a global scale. The problem is that the poverty line and the definition of poverty, in and of itself, is relative. The definition of poverty will never be absolute in nature, due to the contrasts in cultural characteristics around the world. The minimal means a person needs to survive should not be, but is, measured in a monetary sense. What about those who live off the grid or off of their land? The World Bank’s determinant of $3.10 per day does not apply to those families, and yet there is still a measurable line of poverty that they can face (The World Bank, 2015).

Dr. Reddy also spoke about how indicators are selected in regards to perceived need. As stated by Dr. Sanjay for example, within the United States’ Food Stamps program, the bare minimum for specifically food or sustenance needed in a monetary sense is $2.75 per day per person. This is determined based on recipes that fulfill recommended daily nutrients such as fats, carbs, proteins, etc. But, these daily allotments do not include other additional essentials to make the recommended meals such as the kitchen, utensils like pots, the electric to use a stove or microwave. I thought it was interesting he brought up the unnecessary allotments, but as he pointed out earlier in his talk, different regions of the world would need different things. For people living off the land, or do not live in a country where having electricity is a norm, their country’s version of Food Stamps would and should look structurally differently.

I think determining a poverty line needs a great deal of qualitative data to determine what quantitative data is necessary to measure. The qualitative data will provide a cultural context of perceived needs, characteristics, and identify a framework of how the individuals of that region live day to day. I propose that the World Bank should have regional supervision for each part of the world in order to determine the unique needs of each area. There shouldn’t be one poverty line to be used as the determinant for the entire world’s general population. The World Bank’s proposed $3.10 a day poverty line doesn’t translate in a general sense. For example, from an Indian context, specifically in the City of Mumbai, $3.10 in rupees’ equals 210.15 Rupees. As stated before, everything in relation to the definition of poverty is relative. What one can do with 210 Rupees in Mumbai is much more than what one can do in a city in the United States for $3.10. It’s like comparing apples to oranges, so the current standard of evaluating poverty does not suffice.

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5 thoughts on “Measuring Poverty

  1. Marcia Little

    You are really seeing a lot and learning a lot. How old were the children at the train station that needed help? happy to hear you go to do some singing too! Thanks for the blog.

    1. Leanne

      The children can be any age up to 18 years. Under certain circumstances, Childline will help children up to the age of 25.

  2. Shraddha Prabhu

    Interesting post, Leanne. I agree with you that qualitative or mixed methods studies can help better understand the nature of poverty experienced by individuals, families, and communities and help policy makers move beyond minimalist focus on poverty lines and nutritional intakes that do not account for quality of life (and inter-generational poverty) particularly for those children and adults who work in the the informal sector (domestic work, daily wage laborers etc.).

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Anthony Jenkins

    “What one can do with 210 Rupees in Mumbai is much more than what one can do in a city in the United States for $3.10. It’s like comparing apples to oranges, so the current standard of evaluating poverty does not suffice.”

    The poverty lines calculated by the World Bank is on a Purchasing Price Parity basis so the above statement is unfortunately incorrect.

    “In 1990, a group of independent researchers and the World Bank proposed to measure the world’s poor using the standards of the poorest countries in the World. They examined national poverty lines from some of the poorest countries in the world, and converted the lines to a common currency by using purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rates. The PPP exchange rates are constructed to ensure that the same quantity of goods and services are priced equivalently across countries. Once converted into a common currency, they found that in six of these very poor countries the value of the national poverty line was about $1 per day per person, and this formed the basis for the first dollar-a-day international poverty line.”

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