Friday, March 22, 2013

Visualising Poverty

What does it mean to be poor?

Statistics only tell part of the story, and often miss the human dimension of poverty. Here’s two people’s unique take on the subject:

Shopping on the poverty line - what can you eat?

What happens when a photographer and an economist work together to document poverty around the world? When Stefen Chow and his wife, Hui-yi Lin, set out to answer that question, they came up with a photo project, The Poverty Line.

Ms Lin calculates how much money people living at the poverty line have to spend on food each day. In the US, that figure comes to $4.91 (£3.24) a day, while in Madagascar, it amounts to 64 cents.

Mr Chow then documents how much food that money buys in each country, placing the food against a local newspaper.

The award-winning project's website has just been relaunched, making it more interactive for users to learn what it means to be poor and hungry from Tokyo to Rio de Janeiro.

The project website can be accessed here. Malaysia’s visuals are here.

Each separate photo shows what food can be bought for the daily maximum outlay (USD1.36) implied by our official poverty line and you can drill down by food type through the menus on the left.

It doesn’t look that bad unless you happen to know that Malaysia’s poverty line is based on household income and not individual income.

A note on international comparison however – in Malaysia as in much of the developing world, poverty lines typically measure absolute poverty. In advanced economies relative poverty measurements are used instead, so incidences of poverty (and thus the photos on the project website) aren’t directly comparable.

1 comment:

  1. I think that's already taken into account, as the poverty line is RM500 per month per household of 4, which works out to be about USD 1.36 per person, per day. Still a shockingly low amount. And I thought I was being frugal making a meal of chicken wings for $2.