Washington D.C. (GPA) – The United States might be the wealthiest country in the world, but many Americans can’t tell. Over 43 million American citizens (roughly 14%) live below the poverty line struggling to pay for essential goods like rent, food, and other necessities. Furthermore, nearly 20 million Americans live in deep poverty (50% or more below the poverty line).
It’s difficult to compare the poverty rates of China and the United States. For one thing, the United States sets its own standard for measuring poverty. Poverty statistics for China come from the World Bank. In that respect, about 4% of China’s population live below the international poverty line while over 14% of U.S. citizens live below the national poverty line.
China’s poverty rate is measured by citizens living on around $2 a day or less while the United States poverty threshold sits at about $16 per day (it’s measured by yearly salary per family of four). At first glance, this would seem like more Chinese citizens live in far deeper poverty than their American counterparts. However, it’s worth considering that the cost of living in the United States is nearly double that of China which makes it much harder for low-income citizens in the United States to access necessities.
Cost of Living
The overall cost of living is 40% less in China than in the United States. When taking poverty levels into account, this difference is drastic.
For many Americans living in poverty or on the brink of poverty, rent is a major expense costing anywhere from $800 per month (if you’re lucky) and upwards. In China, on the other hand, rent averages about $500 in major cities and drops to about $300 outside of urban areas. Three bedroom apartments in major cities cost approximately $1,100. What would that same apartment cost in New York or Chicago?
Chinese citizens also enjoy much lower utility costs. For your one bedroom apartment, you’ll pay an additional $64 per month for electricity, water, garbage, heat, and air conditioning. That price also includes high-speed broadband internet access with unlimited data. Most Americans probably spend more than that each month just for their phone plan.
China has a much better public transportation system than the United States offering buses and trains. One-way local bus tickets cost about 30 cents, and a monthly pass sits around $20.
Food & Other Goods
General groceries cost much, much less in China. One-pound of chicken breast costs less than $2. One-pound of potatoes, apples, bananas, oranges, and other general produce all cost less than $1 per pound. A pack of cigarettes only costs about $3. Don’t feel like cooking? Take-out from an inexpensive restaurant will cost you about $3 while sitting down in a mid-range restaurant is about $21.
Want higher education from a college or vocational school? College students in China pay between $400 and $2,200 each year. This price includes room, board, and meals. This figure is about half what students in the United States pay.
Publically-financed health care in China covers primary, specialist, and emergency care as well as hospital stays, mental health treatment, and prescription medication for low-income individuals. Local governments are responsible for distributing state health funds to citizens.
In the United States, poverty is widespread throughout urban and rural areas. The only areas without high levels of poverty are U.S. suburbs. China is a little different. Most of their poverty is concentrated in rural areas while cities enjoy higher standards of living. To address this, China will move millions from rural regions to equip them with higher-paying city jobs.
The United States, on the other hand, has little to offer its citizens facing poverty. Utility assistance and public housing are unheard of. Healthcare and college is nothing more than a pipedream for Americans struggling to pay rent. Meanwhile, the poor face higher crime, drug abuse, and unaddressed mental health issues.
Over the past decade or so, China has lifted millions out of poverty and hopes another 70 million will be living above the poverty line by 2020. The difference between China and the U.S. is that China has a plan for addressing poverty while in the United States the situation continues to deteriorate.