New book shows life in Chicago, among other places, on $2 a day

What's $2 to you?

A pack of gum? A greeting card, if you buy generic? The loose change in your purse?

It's something else in Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer's new book: a daily income.

A shockingly large number of people in this country, they write, are living on $2 a day — the World Bank's definition of global poverty in the developing world. Including people in Chicago. Possibly the ones asking for money outside the Starbucks where I start my day with a grande cup of tea — for $2.71.

Chicago figures prominently in "$2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America." The city has served as an education and laboratory for Edin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University who attended North Park University and graduate school at Northwestern University. Her first book looked at how single mothers on welfare in Chicago managed their budgets, and she considers the city a quintessentially American one.

So when she began looking for people experiencing the extreme poverty she had started to see, and that Shaefer confirmed by analyzing Census Bureau data, she came to Chicago to search for people living on $2 or less a day as their entire cash income, counting jobs, money from family or friends — any cash coming in to the household.

She found lots of them here. Easily.