Jacob J. Walker's Blog

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Thought of the Day: Am I part of the 99% or the 1%?

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Chart of U.S. income inequality. The data come from this table: http://www.econ.berkeley.edu/~saez/TabFig2008.xls on Emmanuel Saez’s website at University of California, Berkeley.

The Occupy Wall Street movement says We are the 99%.  And it is clear the income inequality within the United States is staggering, and that we don’t generally recognize it, as this video clearly shows with clarity. With a median household income of $53,046, the “average” household in the U.S. has extremely less income than the top 1% of the U.S.  And I will disclose that the U.S. median household income is very close to my family’s household income.

But, what is often left out of this dialogue is that the U.S. Population makes up slightly less than 5% of the world population (Source: Comparison of The World Factbook population estimates for the U.S. and World.)  By definition of being near the median of the U.S. household income, that means that I am wealthier than nearly 50% of the U.S.   And with the worldwide household income being around $10,000, it means any household that makes $10,000 is richer than half of the humans on this planet.

World map showing advanced, transitioning, less and least developed country economies.

So with this being said, while I still want to do more precise math (as I haven’t factored in the world’s Lorenz curve), I am guesstimating that I am in the top 3 to 5% of the world’s household income…  And if we look at history, my family’s life expectancy and technology is far greater than the kings of the middle ages, so of the historical human population, my families wealth, and the wealth of many families in the U.S. are likely within the top 1% of the historical human population.  (Especially, because it appears to be a myth that there are more people alive today than that of human history)

So what does this mean?  I think it means we first should recognize how much we have, and be grateful for it!  Although, economic inequality in the U.S. also leads to power inequality, and that is dangerous, since many of the people who are driven to accumulate wealth are not necessarily those who will do the most good with that wealth.  (Thank goodness we have had some enlightened folks like Bill Gates,  Warren Buffet, and Andrew Carnegie)

Most of all, I hope this post gets people to think!  If we believe in the U.S. ideal that all humans are created equal, then we must look at the context of humanity as a whole for how we judge ourselves.

Post Revisions:

This post has not been revised since publication.

Written by Jacob Walker

February 19th, 2014 at 11:56 am

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