You may not believe this but you are richer than you think. In fact, the poorest Americans are richer than 80% of the worlds population. Stop and think about that for a second. The pictures of poor people, living in poverty, in America have more wealth than almost everyone else on earth. At first that may not sound right but bear with me.
First consider the cost of food and luxuries like appliances. A mere hundred years ago nobody had a fridge. It took nearly forty years for everyone in the United States to get electricity and with every new invention adoption rates become much shorter. These appliances are luxuries that are easy to take for granted.
Looking at the chart below really shows the ease of adoption (through lower cost and excess supply) for major technological breakthroughs. Their are very few items that the rich enjoy that the poor don’t also take part in. Moving to an information age has made everyone richer.
Because infographics are so cool this graphic is also being included.
The fact that a refrigerator costs the same as eight meals for a family of four really puts into perspective the low cost of these items. Think about all the components and technology included in a fridge you can buy off craigslist.
It’s popular to bash the rich but that’s a little too simplistic (some call this form of attacks a form of prejudice, because you can’t just paint everyone with the same broad brush). It’s important to distinguish between the justly rich and the unjustly rich. The unjustly rich have inherited their riches from their daddy and think they’ve achieved something (Warren Buffett thinks inheriting large sums of money is nothing less than welfare, since the person receiving the money didn’t earn it themselves). The unjustly rich also get rich from exploiting government bail outs and protectionism provided them from said government. The justly rich however improve everyone’s lives. They bring down the cost of goods, provide innovative products, and solve problems in peoples’ lives. The justly rich should be celebrated to a level just under the founding fathers (almost sounds blasphemous considering how often the rich are vilified). The point of this being, without the justly rich improving our lives we couldn’t share in the bounty that is our modern lives.
This graph from the book The Haves and the Have-Nots (review) shows the percent of world income is shown on the Y axis and the ventile of each country are graphed on the X axis. A ventile is the total population of each country divided into 20 equally-sized groups. They are then ranked by household per-capita income. What it shows is that the poorest of Americans (with average annual income of $6,800) are richer than 68% of the world (many of which live off less than $1 a day). The flatter the line the less inequality there is in that country. Brazil has the biggest discrepancy between their ultra poor and wealth citizens. One surprising result from this is that America’s poorest poor are richer than India’s richest rich (as a group). Within India’s richest there as a vast difference between the super rich and the relatively rich for that country).
While your neighbors new large home or new boat might make you feel poor take solace in the fact you live like a king compared to the rest of the world.