The Poverty Line

The Poverty Line

Interesting global poverty site needs more support for classroom use

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Subjects & Skills

Character & SEL, Critical Thinking, Social Studies

Price: Free
Platforms: Web

Pros: Unique tool to expand students' knowledge of what it means to be poor in different parts of the world.

Cons: Site doesn't include lesson plans or suggestions on how to use information with students.

Bottom Line: Potentially a useful reference, but the site requires teachers' time and thought in order to create meaningful learning.

Teachers should spend some time exploring The Poverty Line's content before deciding how it will best suit their students. A whole-class introduction to the site is recommended in order to discuss its purpose, explain how it works, and answer some common questions. It's best used by students as a place to spend time exploring the different comparisons and drawing conclusions about issues of poverty.

In a course on cultures and geography, students could use the site as a reference, comparing and contrasting developed and developing nations. In an economics course, students could examine the poverty line calculations and food costs, then apply the same methodology to other nations not listed on the site. In addition, the site is intended to be a starting point for exploring a complex issue. As an extension, students could do a research project to investigate the causes of and possible solutions to the inequities reflected on the site.

The Poverty Line is a website created by a photographer and an economist in response to the basic question of "what it means to be poor" around the world. To date, the site has information on twenty different countries, both developed and developing. For each country, the site's creators have established a per-person, per-day rate of national poverty; corresponding images show the types and amount of food a person could purchase if they were living at the poverty line, depending on where they live.

The homepage is a map showing each of twenty countries, with the per-day poverty rate given in U.S. dollars. As users select each country, a pop-up provides an image with information about the relative poverty level of each nation. The Gallery page has an interactive tool where users can draw comparisons between the countries and various types of food that could be purchased. As countries and foods are selected, photographs are displayed to aid in visual comparisons. Selecting an image provides additional information about each country's poverty rate, and some have links to relevant articles.

The Poverty Line can serve as a unique tool for introducing students to the complex topic of global inequality. While it isn't the best standalone resource -- nor was it intended to be -- the site can certainly spur a discussion. It's likely best used as a one-off resource to help kids consider, compare, and maybe even draw some conclusions about wealth disparities around the world. Students will find it interesting to select different countries and food items to compare, which will most likely trigger further interest about the topic. Because of this, the site will be most valuable as one piece of a larger unit on global wealth and poverty.

Some of the concepts, like consumption data and poverty-line rates, are fairly high level. But the images of day-to-day items and the use of the U.S. dollar for comparison help to make the content more accessible to students at varying levels. There's definitely value in sharing it with students, but the site doesn't go in-depth enough, nor does it provide a broad enough context, to give students a solid understanding. Nevertheless, it's bound to spark their interest in this increasingly important topic.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating

Fascinating visuals and interactive elements combine to help users to explore the complex issue of poverty around the world. However, the site isn't necessarily intended for students -- engagement may vary based on use.


Students can investigate on their own, comparing poverty between countries. Best used as one resource among many in a larger unit on the same topic; meaningful learning will require a careful introduction and scaffolding.


A short About section explains the project and methodology, but there isn't guidance for students or teachers. Through experimenting, users can learn how to make comparisons between different countries and products.

Common Sense reviewer

Community Rating

Visually pleasing, good concept, but lacking in depth

I was conflicted about rating the "support" level of this site. On one hand, I feel like the site is lacking, and could be improved by better labeling, and a lot more information-- even anecdotal information, personal stories, a social aspect, etc. On the other hand, though, I know that some students look at the food and pictures and "click," finally understanding what the poverty line means to different people. In my opinion, this is best used as one of many tools illustrating world poverty.

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