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Living on less than $2 a day

March 7, 2012: 11:59 AM ET

Can you imagine living on less than $2 a day?

That's exactly what nearly 1.5 million American families have had to do.

The number of households living on $2 a day or less, per person, surged by 130% between 1996 and 2011, according to the National Poverty Center. They now constitute nearly one-fifth of the non-elderly households with children living in poverty.

Some 2.8 million children resided in these extremely poor households.

More than a third of these households were headed by a married couple, while just over half were run by a single woman. Nearly half were headed by whites, while one-quarter by blacks and 22% by Hispanics. The largest growth, however, came in households headed by blacks and Hispanics.

The center opted to use the $2 measure because it is one of the World Bank's main indicators of poverty in developing nations.

Food stamps, which help lift many families out of poverty, are not included in the measure. If food stamps were counted as income, the number of households in extreme poverty was 800,000 in 2011, an increase of 67% over the past 15 years.

Have you gotten off public assistance -- such as food stamps or housing vouchers -- in the past five years? Email with your contact information and you could be contacted for an upcoming story or video.

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About This Author
Tami Luhby
Tami Luhby
Senior writer, CNNMoney

Tami Luhby is a senior writer at CNNMoney and covers income inequality, state fiscal problems, unemployment, housing policy and other economic issues. Luhby previously covered personal finance for Newsday and banking for Crain's New York Business.

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