Income Level 1

Income Level 1 is where we find the world’s poorest people. They earn less than $2 a day, and meeting even their most basic of their needs is a struggle. For these people, it’s tough to find a drink of water on a hot day, or to stay dry when it’s raining.

At this income level, it’s common for women to have six or seven children — the global average is just two — because they live in countries where children are much more likely to die before they reach the age of five. This may seem incredible to someone living at Income Level 3 or 4, but it’s a stark reality for the poorest billion people on the planet.

People at Income Level 1 work as low-yield farmers or labourers, and have no savings. Often they grow the food their family relies on for sustenance, eat the same thing for every meal, every single day, and cook on open, indoor fires. Because they grow their own food — and can’t afford to buy food from shops or markets — one bad harvest could mean the entire family starves.

Water is no triviality either. People at this income level have to travel long distances to fetch water using a bucket, either from a cold water tap or an open mud hole. They also can’t afford any form of transport, so they have to walk barefoot. 

Their homes are made from natural materials like mud, reeds, and wood, and are vulnerable to bad weather because they have temporary roofs. There usually aren’t any dividing walls inside these homes, so large families typically share a single common space at all times. It’s even hard for people at this income level to protect their homes and possessions from other people, because their doors often don’t have locks.

Worst of all, if a family member gets sick at this income level, the consequences can be terrible. It can be hard to cure even treatable illnesses and infections, because people living in this degree of poverty have very limited access to antibiotics, and health clinics are often a long way away.

See how people on Level 1 live