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Having traveled to the field for my work with Heifer, I've seen true poverty firsthand. Heck, I can find poverty within my own neighborhood. So I know what it looks like. But just how is it measured?

Poverty in Uganda

The World Bank, which measures a lot of data points in more than 200 countries and has a very thorough website specifically for sharing their data, has a video that explains how they measure poverty.

It's important to measure things that you'd like to end. If we're going to end poverty, we have to know where we're starting from. But I feel like this video really leaves some major considerations out. It appears income and consumption are the primary measures of wellbeing. So, once a family earns enough income and consumes enough goods, they're considered "above" the poverty line. But are they really out of poverty? Just how easily can they fall right back "below" the poverty line?

At Heifer, we work hard to ensure our participants – individuals, families and communities – truly move out of poverty so they aren't likely to fall back into poverty. We do this by helping them build assets, grow savings and develop real security. These accomplishments allow them to be more resilient to things like natural disasters or an illness in the family.

Freedom from poverty in Malawi.

What do you think about how poverty is measured? What else seems to be missing? Tell us in the comments section below.


Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She and her husband raise two daughters in a house way too small for their four pets. They spend a lot of time sweeping.