Another Day, Another $1.08

April 26, 2007

This month the World Bank announced that 986m people lived on the equivalent of less than one dollar a day in 2004—the first time it has counted fewer than 1 billion people in such a parlous state. The bank's definition of extreme poverty is stark, simple and even alliterative. In the latest issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, of MIT, describe it as a rhetorical masterstroke. But is it also entirely arbitrary? And how do the poor subsist on such a meager amount?