According to the CIA’s World Factbook, of 136 countries analyzed, the USA ranks 97th when it comes to income equality – on par with countries like Rwanda, Philippines, Uganda, Jamaica, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoir, Iran and Malaysia. No other modern western countries rank higher than 66th. The poorest half of Americans own only 2.5% of the country’s wealth. The richest 1% of Americans own 34%. And the richest 10% own more than 70% of the county’s wealth. This means that the richest 1% own more wealth than all of the middle class and poor combined.
About 15% of Americans, nearly 46 million, are now classified as poor. Poor Americans are defined by a family of four making less than $22,350 per year. A Big Mac today costs about $3.67 with tax. For a family of four to eat nothing but Big Macs for three meals a day would cost about $16,000 in a year leaving just over $6,000, about $16 per day, $4 per family member, to cover rent, transportation, health care and other costs.
In the late 1800s, 75% of American workers were employed in agriculture. Today that number is less than 3% as technology and automation have made human farmers less valuable. From 2001 to 2010, nearly 5 million manufacturing jobs were lost to automation even as the value of manufactured goods rose 27%. Moreover, automated self-service machines replaced 1.1 million retail workers between 2008 and 2011. At this rate at least another 8.3 million manufacturing and retail workers will lose their jobs to machines between now and 2020.
The 12 million illegal immigrants in America are often blamed for unemployment rates as they will often take physical labor jobs for less money than average Americans. However, though illegal immigrants make up only 3.75% of the U.S. population, they constitute 5% of the country’s economy and therefore create more jobs than they take. In fact, Harvard’s George Borjas estimates that illegal immigrants have a net increase of 1% on the average American’s wealth.
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In 2010, America spent $729 billion on defense. That comes to $2,367 per American. By comparison, China spent $78 billion on defense. That comes to $60 per Chinese.
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Semuels, Alana. Retail Jobs are Disappearing as Shoppers Adjust to Self-Service. L.A. Times. March 4, 2011.
Davidson, Adam. Q&A: Illegal Immigrants and the U.S. Economy. NPR. March 30. 2006.
Dalia, Fahmy. Expensive Aliens: How Much Do Illegal Immigrants Really Cost? ABC News. May 21, 2010.
Gogoi, Pallavi. Job Market Booming Overseas For Many American Companies. Huffington Post. December 28, 2010.
A Decade of Unemployment. Visual Economics. September, 2011.
List of Countries by Income Equality. Wikipedia. September, 2011.
Distribution of Family Income. CIA Factbook. September, 2011.
Poverty. National Poverty Center. September, 2011.