The Number of Americans Living on Less Than $2 a Day Is Skyrocketing

Research shows 1.5 million households and 3 million children are living in desperate economic conditions.

The World Bank and other global institutions use a very specific measure to record global poverty rates. They gather data designed to record the number of people in a country who live on less than $2 a day, and then use the information to make a “poverty headcount ratio”— the percentage of people in a country who live under this standard. In most recent data, Sierra Leone, for example, had a staggering 82.5% of its citizens living in poverty by this count.

What is less known is that millions of Americans are living in situations of similar poverty. A new book, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, explores the status of Americans who face this extreme level of poverty

“Most of us would say we would have trouble understanding how families in a country as rich as ours could live on so little," Kathryn J. Edin, who co-wrote the book with H. Luke Shaefer, said in a conference call recorded by CBS News. "These families, contrary to what many would expect, are workers, and their slide into poverty is a failure of the labor market and our safety net, as well as their own personal circumstances."