I found a poster that makes some incredible claims, and I want to see how well they stand up to scrutiny. The citation is vague, and I wonder how accurately the claims represent the sources, if at all.


enter image description here

Separate claims to verify:

  1. 18 million die each year from "poverty-related causes"; what is important here is to find out exactly how "poverty-related" is defined and if that definition is reasonable.

  2. Global agricultural production can feed more than 1.18 times the global population, 868 million go hungry. Again, the definitions of "feed" and "hungry" are important. Should be easy to verify, though. I would also be curious to see exactly where the waste is/what the explanation is.

  3. There are 5 vacant homes for every homeless person in the U.S. I believe this has been posted on skeptics.SE before.

  4. 77.5% of US households are in debt, 1 in 7 residents are being pursued by a debt collector. Some context/clarification would be nice.

  • 4
    You should probably create a separate question for each of those claims...
    – user2276
    Aug 2, 2016 at 2:04
  • Since the number across the world living in extreme poverty is falling remarkably quickly maybe this claim will have to be revised very soon.
    – matt_black
    Aug 2, 2016 at 7:40
  • 1
    As for #4--first you need to define "in debt". Owe a dollar? What about temporary balances on credit cards? And note that that 77.5% includes an awful lot of people who have a mortgage on their house. Aug 3, 2016 at 0:30
  • "There are more than 5 vacant homes for every homeless person"--not a very good measure of the homelessness problem! If you reduce the number of homeless people it will go even higher.
    – user11522
    Aug 3, 2016 at 10:54
  • 5
    I strongly suggest we split these into four questions. Anyone disagree? Aug 5, 2016 at 13:28

1 Answer 1


18 million die each year from "poverty-related causes"

Likely original source: "Poverty and Human Rights" article by Thomas Pogge (published among documents on the site of UN Commissioner of Human Rights).

Accuracy of the claim to that original source: Accurate

  • Roughly one third of all human deaths, some 18 million annually, are due to poverty-related causes, easily preventable through better nutrition, safe drinking water, mosquito nets, re-hydration packs, vaccines and other medicines

Reliability of the source's data itself: Original source did NOT cite that statistics, although many other stats in that same article are well cited. As such, the data is NOT reliable, being un-cited.

  • Caveat: a subset of the data is cited (10M child deaths), but it cites a UNICEF brochure, which isn't exactly a scientific publication and doesn't cite anything itself.

Usage of logical fallacies: Possible but hard to ascertain given the lack of proper citations to proper research. Even if the stat is accurate, this research sounds like makes no effort to attribute the deaths to actual poverty, as opposed to causes that may be associated with poverty. To be clear, that doesn't make the claim untrue, just unproven.

Relationship to the Facebook Post's conclusions

Leaving aside the accuracy of the data or the claim, most of poverty-related-caused deaths clearly occur in 3rd world countries, NOT in capitalist countries, especially if you look at causes listed. As such, blaming capitalism for this is an absolutely false conclusion to arrive at.

Moreover, it can be shown that capitalism was arguably the greatest contributor to reducing poverty.

China (which has never shown any interest in MDGs) is responsible for three-quarters of the achievement. Its economy has been growing so fast that, even though inequality is rising fast, extreme poverty is disappearing. China pulled 680m people out of misery in 1981-2010, and reduced its extreme-poverty rate from 84% in 1980 to 10% now (source)

In case quoting from Cato or Mises Institute sounds biased, let's quote that extreme right winger, Bono:

“Aid is just a stop-gap. Commerce (and) entrepreneurial capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid. … In dealing with poverty here and around the world, welfare and foreign aid are a Band-Aid. Free enterprise is a cure. … Entrepreneurship is the most sure way of development.”

I left a comment explaining why I'm only addressing claim #1. Mostly because clumping all 4 together is too broad

  • 1
    Leaving aside that commentary is out of place you are saying that because communist China is eradicating poverty, that proves capitalism works? Aug 5, 2016 at 13:34
  • 5
    @djclayworth China since Deng has not been communist. Read a book. Aug 5, 2016 at 14:36
  • 1
    So massive human rights violations, government control of industry and information, widespread corruption, massive counterfeiting and a one-party system is what capitalism is? That's good to know. Aug 5, 2016 at 14:44
  • 4
    @DJClayworth - capitalism is (1) not a binary state and (2) is an economic system, not a political one. It can be implemented under vastly different political structures, including one-party systems or even outright dictatorships (Chile), although history shows that it has a tendency to prod said political systems to democratize with time. Granted, China isn't exactly Mises style pure lassies-fair capitalism, but it's closer to capitalism than communism, since Deng Xiaoping. And the poverty reduction there is expressly linked with the capitalist parts.
    – user5341
    Aug 5, 2016 at 14:49
  • @user5341: It's a gnarly question. Kudos for attempting to answer. If you pay attention to Thomas Piketty, Noam Chomsky, Michael Hudson, (even Adam Smith) and other at least fairly intelligent analysts of history and economics, you can come to an anti-neoliberal view. So while the poster itself is pretty nonsensical, you can see where it comes from, I think. Aug 18, 2016 at 1:41

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