Dollar Street – a new way to travel the world

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Bill Gates recently shared his passion for the website Dollar Street. In two blog posts, the American magnate and philanthropist describes his fascination with the site, which is based on the concept of imagining that everyone in the world lives on the same street, but all the houses are ordered by income from the poorest to the richest. The creator, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, made the site with the purpose of reducing the alienation between different cultures and creating a place where it is easy and natural to see how similar people’s lives are across the world; she says “it’s striking to see how similar our lives are. It makes the world less scary to see that most people struggle with everyday business most of the time, and they’re not so exotic and it’s not so scary”.

dollar street 1

Dollar Street, a project created by Gapminder, sent teams of photographers around the world to take photos of over 264 homes in 50 different countries and uploaded them onto the website, allowing us to see how different people live across the world at different income points. For each home up to 135 photos are taken of different household items, from cooking utensils to beds to the family’s most prized possession. Gates blogged about how his favourite items are the toothbrushes – everyone brushes their teeth, but depending on their income they might just use their finger or a stick, or a plastic toothbrush with bristles.

Two girls in Bihar, India brush their teeth using their fingers and mud.

On Dollar Street each household is placed on the street based on their monthly household income (in US dollars), with a short introduction for every family bringing you right into their home, no matter where you are in the world. The average median income on the street is $250 to $390 per adult per month. The creator says she wanted to demonstrate that there’s not just poor and rich in the world, but “a continuous scale, a very smooth distribution, where most people are actually in the middle”. You can see her TED talk here.

Interestingly, a Chinese family from Kunming takes the top spot on the street for highest income, at $10 098 per person per month. A total of 27 homes from China are included on the street, ranging from rural Guizhou and Yunnan to urban Beijing and Hong Kong. The lowest income comes in at $132. Just one glance at the different profiles of the Chinese homes demonstrates the diversity within the country.


Dollar Street is still growing, documenting the wants and needs of more and more households across the world and across income scales, showing us that we are really not all that different.