The Canard of extreme poverty.

All Indians are poor, right. Super poor. All Americans rich, some super rich. Correct? Wrong. 

Just the other day, this little tweet, went more or less viral. The world’s more poor, it screamed : 33% of poorest people live in India. Here’s that tweet.

Now, living in an Indian city, or reading media reports about India, you would not be surprised. Heck you might be forgiven if you think that maybe *all* the world’s population of poor lives in India.

That, of course presumes, there is no Africa or other “Third World countries” — that pejorative, which the West came up for those who did not want to be dragged into their war with Russia and allies.

Lets forget that. Back to the poverty rates. Now suppose you were living in any of the countries that weren’t the high-income countries — your nominal per capita income, and very crucially, your per capita expenditure would also be quite less, except in certain cases. So a dollar that might only get you X item in the US would get you maybe 2 or 3X items in India — which is the course of things. For example, in the European countries which are much richer than the US, the same dollar would get you 1/2 or 1/3 X (toffee bar, meal, whatever).

So ideally, if you must compare poverty levels, you should compare based on the same criteria — for example, if you are comparing how many people live below 1$ a day income in India — with an average per capita GDP of 1,500 US Dollars, (effectively 1/6th its average GDP), then you should ideally see how many people live below a similar line in the US — average per capita of approx 51,000 US Dollars- so about 12,000 USD, to calculate similar levels of poverty. (My GDP figures are for 2012 based on a WB report.)

So if say X% of Indians are poor by that figure, and Y% of Americans — that would be an acceptable and more accurate figure for comparison. And it is not just I that say so — the US Govt also agrees [PBS, 2013]— it puts the poverty threshold for a family of 2 adults and 2 children at approx 23,000 US Dollars. By that measure, in 2013 there are approximately 50 million poor people in the United States.

No, not a typo. 50 million. or 5 Crore people, 1 of every 6 Americans. Now, why would that not get published in a figure discussing World Poverty — that should be, isn’t it? Instead of picking an arbitrary number and saying these are poor, these aren’t?

Well, cos it feeds the propaganda machine in labelling certain countries as poor and questioning for example their spend on Space Research or the Military, while the US gets to merrily own 10,000 nuclear warheads and spend 2trillion dollars on wars.

Shouldn’t you question that, see through that?

1. Indian governmental estimates for poverty levels differ from the above, and are lower.
2. At Current US regulations for minimum wage, the US poverty line barely scratches that surface or falls short.