U.S. has more truly destitute people than either Sierra Leone or Nepal, says Nobel economist Deaton

In this Sept. 18, 2017 photo, Taz Harrington, right, sleeps with his girlfriend, Melissa Ann Whitehead, on a street in downtown Portland, Ore. Harrington, who is in his 20s, said he met Whitehead, who was already homeless, online and came to Oregon to be with her even though he knew they would be sleeping outside. He said although he was hoping to find work, his girlfriend becomes anxious when he's away, so he stays with her most of the time. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Princeton economist estimates there are 5.3 million Americans who are ‘absolutely poor’ by global standards



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Melanie, who is homeless, eats dinner at the Broad Street Ministry (BSM) which serves thousands of free meals five days per week while also providing the homeless with a mail center, a clothes mending facility, counseling and medical screenings for the homeless and those that are in financial distress on January 24, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Americans are used to thinking that the kind of extreme poverty that would be a concern of the United Nations is only found in far-away countries in Africa and Asia.

But Nobel Prize-winning economist Angus Deaton says the poverty data used by international organizations masks a deep poverty problems in our own backyard.

The World Bank says people who live on less than $1.90 per day are the world’s poorest. In a New York Times op-ed on Thursday, Deaton said that figure should be more like $4 a day in the U.S. because there are necessities of life, such as housing, in rich, cold, urban countries that are less needed in poor countries.

“There are millions of Americans whose suffering, through material poverty and poor health, is as bad or worse than that of the people in Africa or in Asia.”

Princeton University economist Angus Deaton

An Indian villager spends little or nothing on housing, heat, or child care and a poor agricultural laborer in the tropics can get by with little clothing or transportation.

When the data is adjusted for $4 a day, there are 5.3 million Americans who are absolutely poor by global standards, Deaton said.

That is more than Sierra Leone or Nepal and about the same as in Senegal.

In the article, Deaton says that it is time to stop thinking that only non-Americans are truly poor and that some of the charitable giving flowing from the U.S. to Asia and Africa should be diverted to domestic relief agencies.

In a recent interview with MarketWatch, Deaton said that American capitalism is not working for all Americans.

Read: Surge in ‘deaths of despair’ among whites suggests the loss of ‘a way of life,’ Deaton says

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