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Comparing The Rich Versus The Poor

2409 words - 10 pages

Rich v. Poor

Take a moment and picture a child half naked in the streets. His body has been harshly neglected. Little to no calf muscles exist. His ribs are plainly countable. One, two, three up his left side. You can do the same to his right. Malnutrition only vaguely begins to describe his condition. The worst of anorexia doesn’t even compare to this child’s inhumane state. As for shelter, he lives in a dilapidated hut. Food is a luxury, as the child may be fed only three or four times a week. He’s expected to die by the age of five due to severe malnutrition and disease. This is the grim portrait of an Ethiopian child in absolute poverty. His life doesn’t allow for the basic essentials of food, shelter, or clothing.

In today’s world poverty is not only viewed in terms of average income/wealth, but as the lower end of distribution regarding income, education, health accessibility, nutrition, productivity, participation in politics, etc. Thus, poverty is defined as the “economic condition in which people lack sufficient income to obtain certain minimal levels of health services, food, housing, clothing, and education generally recognized as necessary to ensure an adequate standard of living” (Funk & Wagnall 1). Adequate, however, depends on the standard of living for each country.

There are two different types of poverty today—relative and absolute. Nearly half of a billion people live in relative poverty—“meaning that some citizens are poor, relative to the wealth enjoyed by their neighbors” (Singer 218). To put these figures in terms one can relate to, it’s estimated that about 10% of human life resides in relative poverty. This is a substantial amount, but their condition is quite well off compared to those living in absolute poverty. Most of the poverty in the Unites States is relative. The poverty level in the U.S. is normally based on annual income figures. In 1995, a family was identified as poor if their income equaled $15,569. Adjustments, however, vary with inflation and family size. In short, by current U.S. standards, many poor people elsewhere in the world would be living near or in absolute poverty, surviving on just over $200-$500 per year (Funk & Wagnall 1).

Unfortunately, it was estimated that roughly 1.2 billion people in 1993 lived in extreme or absolute poverty, that which Robert McNamara regards “‘a condition of life so characterized by malnutrition, illiteracy, disease, squalid surroundings, high infant mortality and low life expectancy as to be beneath any reasonable standard of human dignity’” (Singer 219, 220). These estimates can be projected at nearly 2 billion today. A large majority of the people living in absolute poverty resides in underdeveloped countries. Among the nearly 4.4 billion people in these countries, “3/5 lives in societies lacking basic sanitation; 1/3 go without safe drinking water; 1/4 lack adequate housing; 1/5 are undernourished, and 1.3...

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