Got five minutes? Take a look at a fascinating interactive website called Dollar Street that imagines a world where everyone lives on the same street, in order of income. The poorest live on one end, and the richest live on the other.
Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates says he's "obsessed" with Dollar Street because of its power to deepen our understanding of the world and make it feel less overwhelming.
We think you'll be caught in its spell, too. You'll learn a thing or two about your fellow humans — and maybe about yourself. Here are 10 things Dollar Street can teach you.
1. You're probably wrong about 'rich' and 'poor'
Dollar Street was created by Anna Rosling Rönnlund, daughter-in-law of the Swedish academic Hans Rosling, who challenged the idea that the world can be divided into only "rich" and "poor."
Instead, he said there are four levels of income, and that the "wealthiest" earn more than $32 a day: about $12,000 a year.
Rosling said the human experience within each level is remarkably similar all over the world. To illustrate that point, Dollar Street went to 50 countries and visited 264 families, to collect 30,000 photos of how they live.
2. We're not as different as you might think
Bill Gates calls Dollar Street "a beautiful reminder that we have more in common with people on the other side of the world than we think."
The Microsoft co-founder says it shows that we all have the same basic wants and needs, like a good roof over our heads and better tools to take care of ourselves.
"People tend to spend money on the same things once they increase their income whether they live in China or Cameroon," Gates writes, on his blog.
3. Foreign countries aren't really so exotic
Dollar Street uses the power of pictures to knock down stereotypes about countries.
"People in other cultures are often portrayed as scary or exotic," says site creator Anna Rosling Rönnlund. "This has to change. We want to show how people really live."
You see, for example, that life in China isn't just one thing. People there live differently at different income levels, and life at the highest level would look familiar to many people in the U.S.
4. Geography doesn't really matter much
One of the big lessons from Dollar Street is that what people earn has more to do with how they live than their location or ethnicity.
"People from different continents, with the same income, are neighbors on Dollar Street," says Rönnlund. "The way people live on the same income levels is often surprisingly similar."
Gates says the photos on the site — of toilets, for example — show that wealthy people in Africa and Mexico live pretty much the same way as wealthy people in Europe and the U.S.
5. People's everyday items tell more than stats
Dollar Street uses its photos as data. It documents how people live through images of up to 135 items found in and around their homes, including their cooking utensils, shoes, beds, phones, soap, front door, pets and toothbrushes.
Gates says he found the pictures of the toothbrushes really interesting.
"The families at the poorest end of the street use their fingers or sticks to clean their teeth," he writes. "But once you reach a certain income level, everyone starts using a plastic toothbrush with bristles.”
6. 1 billion get by on less than $2 a day
Hans Rosling's "Level 1" of income — earned by an estimated 1 billion of the world's very poorest people — is $2 or less per day.
These are typically farmers living in one- or two-room homes they've built themselves. That's the case with this single-bedroom house where members of the Kabura family of Burundi live on $29 a month.
People in Level 1 walk everywhere and get their water from wells, which can be an hour away on foot. The homes have no electricity and no real kitchens. But the families do often have cellphones.
7. The largest income level is $2-$8 a day
The largest Rosling's four income levels is Level 2, made up of people earning between $2 and $8 per day. Roughly 3 billion live at this level, including the Iquira Collo family of Bogota, Colombia, whose monthly income is $145.
Homes at this level are made of better-quality materials; brick and metal sheeting are common. Some of the families even live in apartment buildings.
Many of the households own livestock and have some electricity. They may use a bike to get to the water well.
8. The 'upper middle' makes $8-$32 per day
Some 2 billion of the world's people live in Rosling's Level 3, on income between $8 and $32 per day.
They typically have refrigerators stocked with a mixture of fresh and processed foods. The images from inside the homes show better hygiene products and toys, plus small luxury items.
Level 3 includes the five-member Macintyre family of Michigan, with monthly income of $855. They say they dream of moving to a better area.
9. People at the top aren't necessarily rich
The families who live within Level 4, at the richest end of Dollar Street, aren’t always “rich” in the common sense of the word. The site shows that a Level 4 family home can be a run-down rental apartment.
But if you’re Level 4 — no matter where you live in the world — you’ll have access to indoor plumbing (with hot water), stable electricity, a toilet, heat in the winter, a gas or electric stove for cooking, a refrigerator and a mattress.
Roughly 15% of the world's population, about 1 billion, live at this level and earn more than $32 per day. They include the Bi family of Kunming, China; this is their living room. Their monthly income is $10,098.
10. You may be surprised to see where you live
Where on Dollar Street do you think you live?
Would you be surprised to learn that you live at the wealthy end of the street? That's true even if you're a single person making only the minimum wage at a full-time job in the U.S.
If you don't feel wealthy, that's OK. Again, one of the myths Dollar Street hopes to blow out of the water is that there's only "rich" and "poor." This extraordinary site shows that most people are somewhere in between.
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