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Half of the world's 1% are Americans

We're better off than we thought. Even the poorest Americans are doing better than 68% of the world's population.

By Karen Datko Jan 5, 2012 1:49PM

Who are the world's richest people, the 1% of the planet? Chances are you are one of them.


World Bank economist Branko Milanovic, author of "The Haves and the Have-Nots," concluded that, based on 2005 data, 48% of the world's top earners are Americans -- about 29 million of us.


That's true because it takes just $34,000 in after-tax annual income per person to qualify for the world's 1%, Annalyn Censky explained on CNNMoney. Thus, a family of four would need to earn $136,000 to make the cut.


The other world 1%-ers are in Germany (4 million); France, Italy and England (3 million each); Canada, Korea, Japan and Brazil (2 million each), and assorted other countries. Strangely enough, Milanovic's book says, "There is nobody from Africa, China, India, or from East Europe or Russia (in statistically significant numbers, of course)." Post continues below.

Hardly any in China and India? What about both countries' rapidly growing middle class? "This is because these emerging economies, whose citizens are acquiring wealth rapidly, started so far below the economies of developed countries that they still have a ways to go to enter the world's richest," Libby Kane wrote at LearnVest.


In fact, if "middle class" were defined as people with the world's median income, that would be $1,225 per person a year -- "adjusted to account for different costs of living across the globe," Censky wrote.


On The New York Times' Economix blog, Catherine Rampell wrote about Milanovic's findings about the vast wealth gap across the Earth:

... the typical person in the bottom 5 percent of the American income distribution is still richer than 68 percent of the world's inhabitants. … America's poorest are, as a group, about as rich as India's richest.
Kind of blows your mind, right?
Right. So does that mean the Occupy movement is tilting at windmills? Not really. The gap between the richest and everyone else within the U.S. and other countries is growing. The Huffington Post said:
A report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that, since the mid-1980s, income inequality has increased by 77 percent in the 22 countries surveyed. In these countries, the average income of the richest 10 percent of the population is nine times that of the poorest.

Remember, it takes $506,000 in annual household income to qualify for the U.S. 1%. (Hat tip to The Atlantic for pointing us to a Wall Street Journal calculator so you can figure out what percentage you're in.)


However, others in the world might think we protest too much, based on Milanovic's findings. Dino Grandoni of The Atlantic wrote:

Americans Occupiers in Zuccotti Park made famous phrases like "the 1 percent" to protest wealth disparity within the U.S. -- but the rest of the world can throw that term right back at us.

More on MSN Money:

Jan 5, 2012 6:47PM
Articles like these are a joke and are used in order try to convey the idea, "so stop complaining America it could be worse."  It's not the sum total of how much is made, it's how far your money goes.  1500 dollars in China likely goes as far as 40,000 in the US.  Something is wrong in America when a household  income of 80K is just getting by.  80K might be a fortune in India, but we don't live in India.  The purchasing power in the USA is decreasing every year and wages are staying the same.  What needs to be weighed is how far your income goes in your surroundings, not the sum total earned.
Jan 5, 2012 7:22PM

I too get sick of the comparisons of working poor, poor, and even middleclass Americans vs. other third world countries.  That is why they are called third world countries--their living standards and what they live in and utilize to live is completely different from ours.  "In fact, if "middle class" were defined as people with the world's median income, that would be $1,225 per person a year -- "adjusted to account for different costs of living across the globe," Censky wrote."  Adjusted to represent the third world countries indeed...could one single American survive on this amount per year anywhere in this country???  That amount would barely scrape a month.

People who argue that the poor here should stop complaining because they are rich compared to the poor of other countries really need to wake up.  We don't live squattor central in dilapitated tents here--that is illegal.  You can't just park a tent in the mountains either without paying daily "rent".  You can't go hunt your dinner without a license and only at certain times of the year with specific allowed weapons to hunt with.  Try not sending your child to school and send them off to work instead--you would be in jail.  There may be some "conveniences" even the poor have here vs other countries--there are homeless shelters, yet they do overflow and some homeless freeze to death every winter.  There are foodbanks, foodstamps, and soup kitchens here--so I could agree that food is a little more available here vs other countries where real starvation is occuring.  As far as living conditions, we cannot use a bucket to pee in and have no plumbing, we cannot have a small shed to live in that does not have a heating system, we also cannot live in a shed without electricity.  I know this because my family of four lived in a storage shed without all of the above--we couldn't afford rent and were bankrupt.  If anyone would have reported us to Social Services--they would have taken our kids away rather than help us.  We were denied housing assistance solely because of our credit reports not because we made too much income.  We avoided foodstamps and the foodbank because we couldn't explain how we were living and why there were no utility bills in our names.  Sure we could have tried to get into a family shelter--but they all have waiting lists and when you do get in, the time limits for a stay may be anywhere from 3 days to 30 days at best.  Even 30 days doesn't give you the time you need to get into an apartment or anything then you end up right back on the street.  So we chose to live in an uninsulated shed with a small propane tank with a stove-top burner sized heater for us to huddle around.  Yes, we pee'd in a bucket and buried it.  Everyday we shared one generic 33 cent can of Spaghetti O's a day between the four of us.  We used an outside faucet to get water for sponge bathing out of a TupperWare bowl--it was freezing even in the Summer.  And--we were working opposite hours to avoid childcare!  Minimum wage jobs--no health insurance, bills we couldn't drop in bankruptcy, a car that broke down everyother week that took money out of both our paychecks and made us miss work plus the cost of repairs.  Been there, done it.

Poverty in this country may not be as bad as poverty in a third-world countries...but there is a HUGE difference between our country and others--so there is NO comparison in my opinion!

Jan 6, 2012 12:52PM

But we have energy slaves and we need to feed them. That's why it is so expensive to live in America. As the standard of living rises in other countries, ours will fall. Energy is zero sum.


Jan 7, 2012 11:21PM
Based on 2005 data???  Did everybody miss the 2008 GFC? This report is totally meaningless.  Well... except to pander to middle-class guilt, then I'd say it achieved it's aim.
Jan 6, 2012 6:39PM
The real comparison is standard of living - and ours beats out most countries. 

Many say that what they're earning isn't enough and they're just scraping by, but then they also have 3 smart phones with plans, two cars, a laptop, a desktop with internet service into their home, a big screen TV with cable with a large house (which most of the world does not have) with insurance to back up all their cars and houses in case anything happens to them. Scraping by is just terrible isn't it?

There's a reason you're still living in the United States rather than taking your $1,500 to China. If you don't want to just "get by" quit buying so much stuff!
Jan 5, 2012 7:49PM
The liberals don't think it's fair that anyone makes more money than anyone else, unless it is them!  It's ok for liberals to prosper, just like it's ok for them to okay legislation to shoot Golden eagles on a wind farm, but stop off-shore drilling because of an endangered 2" fish. Liberalism is a severe mental disorder. luckily it's not spreading. More and more Americans are waking up after this little taste of Socialism we are getting. More Americans are buying guns than ever before in fear of their current government. At the end of the day, most of Americans, including most Liberals don't want our country turning into Cuba or far worse- North Korea, which is what our current president wants.
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