Under $2 a Day in America, Part 1

Living on less than $2 per person a day is one World Bank definition of poverty for developing nations.  Unfortunately, this threshold is increasingly relevant to the United States, according to a new study from the National Poverty Center.

The number of U.S. households living on less than $2 per person per day -- which the study terms "extreme poverty" -- more than doubled between 1996 and 2011, from 636,000 to 1.46 million, the study finds (see graph).  The number of children in extremely poor households also doubled, from 1.4 million to 2.8 million.

The figures are for cash income only, although the authors --the University of Michigan's H. Luke Shaefer and Harvard University's Kathryn Edin -- note that extreme poverty is up even when one counts non-cash benefits like SNAP (food stamps).  We will discuss the connection between these findings and food and housing assistance in follow-up posts.