Monday, October 31, 2011

Contrasting poverty in the United States with the rest of the world

A couple weeks ago I wrote about a report on poverty in the United StatesAttention, Protestors: You're Probably Part of the 1% reminds us just how blessed we are in America:

The recent Occupy Wall Street protests have aimed their message at the income disparity between the 1% richest Americans and the rest of the country. But what happens when you expand that and look at the 1% richest of the entire world? Some really interesting numbers emerge. If there were a global Occupy Wall Street protest, people as well off as Linda Frakes might actually be the target.

In America, the top 1% earn more than $380,000 per year. We are, however, among the richest nations on Earth. How much do you need to earn to be among the top 1% of the world?


That was the finding World Bank economist Branko Milanovic presented in his 2010 book The Haves and the Have-Nots. Going down the distribution ladder may be just as surprising. To be in the top half of the globe, you need to earn just $1,225 a year. For the top 20%, it's $5,000 per year. Enter the top 10% with $12,000 a year. To be included in the top 0.1% requires an annual income of $70,000.


Robert M. Lindsey said...

Good reality check.

abba12 said...

These things frustrate me, they're meaningless! You can't just translate the dollar amount and be done with it.

I constantly hear about how people in africa only get paid 50c, and don't get me wrong, those people are suffering from poverty. But their 50c buys a LOT more than our 50c does. The only things thsat aren't priced relative to their income are imported items like electronics.

Give someone $5 in the US and they might be able to afford a coffee. Give $5 to an african and they can afford food for a week plus have change.

Here in Australia, my husbands income currently is less than 34,000 dollars. Does that automatically make us poorer than an American earning 35,000?

Looking up some quick statistics, the American average household income is somewhere around 80k, Australia's is around 65k. But I'm pretty sure Australians earning the average wage are just as well off, if not sometimes better off, than americans earning the average wage, despite it being, in numbers, 15k more.

My husband and I, I believe, are considered to be in poverty (or at least will be if we have another child!). And we are not in your 1% individually (combined we are, but this seems to refer to individuals, and I recieve a government disability pension, so that becomes a bit of a grey area in itself). We're also well below the average wage. And yes, money is tight sometimes, christmas is hard and we often have to wait to buy things, or rely on gifts and hand-me-downs. But we rent a nice house in a nice suburb, we eat organicly and have a very good diet (this is a major priority for me), and through a lot of frugality in other areas we can afford projects and fun once in awhile. We also can afford the special items my baby needs due to sensitivities, including a way overpriced formula milk. I'm not in the 1%, but sometimes I think I live better than many of those who are. Whereas I imagine in america, a family where the main wageearner earns less than 34k, even if the second adult works part time or recieves a pension, is going to struggle a lot.

Everythings relative. You can't take one countries numbers and apply them to everyone else expecting it to work. In this case they're totally different ecconomies. Your food and housing is a LOT cheaper than ours. But on the other hand, you have amazingly high school and health bills (I can't imagine suddenly having a 5,000 debt because my child broke their leg). Everyday items are much cheaper for you, and sometimes I wonder how on earth Americans can have financial struggles when comparend to what we pay for things, but I suspect your insurances are much higher, and that other bills and fees exist that we don't have to deal with.

I'm quite curious to look at an american budger and see where it all goes one day lol. In the meantime, neither of us are individually part of the 1%, but we're doing a lot better than many people in our own country, and I think many people in yours.

Henry Cate said...

Robert - yeah, I think most of us in America don't realize how good we have it.

Abba12 - I agree that it is hard to compare apples and oranges, but I think the numbers do indicate than in general proverty in America isn't like proverty in the rest of the world or through out history. Often the "poor" in America have two televisions.