There's been a lot of talk in the past year about the 1% vs the 99% wealthiest Americans. And while I sympathize with many of Occupy Wall Street's aims (even though when my wife and I walked downtown to see them a few months ago they looked like a bunch of crazy people), it's useful to keep in mind that the wealth divide is very different if we widen our view to the whole world.
That's just what the site GlobalRichList.com has done. It's very simple - you type in your income and it tells you where you fall in the distribution of the whole world's population.
Surprisingly, the income cutoff to be in the world's richest 1% is only $47,500. Doesn't sound too rich, does it? In fact, median household income in the US is about $50,000. Median income per person in the US is about $32,000 - which is still in the top 6% worldwide.
So, the average American is in the 6% wealthiest people worldwide.
Does this mean we shouldn't lobby for a little more income equality in America? No, there are still good reasons to do that. But it does mean we should widen our goals to include the whole world. And perhaps we should remember not to take what we have for granted, and maybe even be willing to part with a little of it to donate to whatever causes we find worthy.
Update: More links:
Americans make up half of the world's richest 1%
Nice blog post by Scott Sumner - The Money Illusion
Similar Washington Post article