Product Review of The Poverty Line
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.
Teachers should spend some time exploring The Poverty Line’s content before deciding how it will best suit their learners. 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 learners as a place to spend time exploring the different comparisons and drawing conclusions about issues of poverty.
In a course on cultures and geography, learners could use the site as a reference, comparing and contrasting developed and developing nations. In an economics course, learners 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, learners could do a research project to investigate the causes of and possible solutions to the inequities reflected on the site.
The Poverty Line can serve as a unique tool for introducing learners 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 learners at varying levels. There’s definitely value in sharing it with learners, but the site doesn’t go in-depth enough, nor does it provide a broad enough context, to give learners a solid understanding. Nevertheless, it’s bound to spark their interest in this increasingly important topic.
Overall User Consensus About the App
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 learners — engagement may vary based on use.
Curriculum and Instruction
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 learners or educators. Through experimenting, users can learn how to make comparisons between different countries and products.