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Income of the Average Person on Earth

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"World/Economy of the World: The Wealth of Nations." The World Book Encyclopedia. Volume 21. Chicago: World Book, Inc., 1983: 350b. "Among the industrial, developed nations of the world, the United States in 1980 had the highest per capita GNP-$11,536. The developed countries of Western Europe had a combined annual per capita GNP of about $9,650, or about four-fifths that of the United States. In contrast to the developed countries, the developing nations of the world had an average per capita GNP of $846." $7,030
Income and Poverty 2005 [pdf]. World Bank: United Nations Development Programme. GDP per capita PPP (int'l $) 2002
World: 7,880
High Income: 28,480
Middle Income: 5,800
Low Income: 2,110
Worldwide Unemployment Figures. Pearson Education, Inc. 2006. [table] N/A
Mock, Gregory. How Much Do We Consume? June 2000. [see table below] $6,893
Wade, Robert Hunter. The Rising Inequality of World Income Distribution. Finance and Development. 38, 4 (December 2001). [see chart below] N/A

Do you ever wonder how you or your family fares financially in the world? Or how the wealth is distributed amongst the people of the world? Each country measures the wealth of its population by the per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or the amount of money that befalls to each person if the nation's total wealth was to be divided evenly. This is not a perfect way to measure the wealth of the people in a certain country since it does not account to the fact that the few wealthy substantially increases this average to a value not truly indicative of most of the people in that particular nation. Unemployment also creates errors in this method, since those people have less capita then those who do work, even for low wages.

According to The World Bank's Income and Poverty 2005 table, the world's GDP per capita in Purchasing Power Parities (PPP or international dollars) in 2002 was $7,880. However, as stated by the same table, both the medium and the low income individuals' wealth was less than the average of the world's wealth. This indicates that the few high income individuals account for a large percentage of the total wealth of the world, which in turn skews the average to a higher value then what truly is in reality.

Although even this slightly raised value of the average income of a person on Earth seems low compared to the average of the United State's GDP per capita of $35,746, the value has increased the past 12 years. In 1980, as stated by the World Book Encyclopedia (1983), the average income of a person in the world was about $7,030 (This is the average income of the USA and Western Europe, and then the average of that quantity and the Developing Nations. This is only an estimate because the income of the communist countries were unknown in 1983), which is more than 850 dollars less than was in 2002.

In order to further understand how much the average income actually is in terms of necessities, the average consumption of main countries in the high, medium, and low income societies can be compared. As Figure 5 in Gregory Mock's article, "How Much Do We Consume?" shows, the high income nations spend multifold of the average income of an individual, but the medium and the low income nations spend less than the average. Even the average of all the indicated countries ($6,893) comes just short of the income of the average person, which in 1997, the time when the chart was made, can be expected to be considerably less than $7,880, but more than $7,030.

The two extremes of abundant wealth and of unemployment do not seem to cancel each other out. Although 8.805% of the world is unemployed, as can be averaged from the Worldwide Unemployment Figure, the world's GDP is 82.7% owned by the upper 20% of the population. And only 1.4% by the lowest 20%, which shows that the unemployed are counted far less into the statistics then the wealthy are.

Maté Nagy -- 2006