Perspective is great – income

By Matt Nolan 17/06/2013


Via Tim Harford on Twitter, I see the “global rich list” site has been updated.  Take a look!

It is this sort of recognition that makes economists get so wound up about global income inequality rather than income inequality within a country.  This is why it came up in the second part of my “careful with occupy” plea in NZ back in 2011 – because I guess that is the sort of way we’ve been trained to view these equity issues.  When economists talk about equality of opportunity (which is a value judgment – so we are wandering out of our strict specialty here) we are viewing all people as equal, irrespective of the country – and this is why development economics is such a massively popular field, and I can fully understand and appreciate that.

Let us take someone working every week of the year, 40 hours a week, on the current minimum wage ($13.75 per hour).  Assume they have no kids and the such, so we are just talking about an individual.  That gives us gross income of $28,600pa.  Now go here, and we get tax of $3,710pa.  Take off the ACC levies, that is $486.20.  Add on the independent earner tax credit, so $520pa.  Ignore any other payments.  This gives us net income of $24,923.80pa.

This result would put you in the top 6.53% of the income distribution over the world.  You would be among the 6.53% of worlds richest people, if you work in NZ on the minimum wage full time.

This in term does ignore two things:

  1. The fact that goods prices tend to be higher in wealthier countries – so this factor will be exaggerating how wealthy the NZer is (as we actually care about goods and services)!
  2. It also ignores that the tax that is paid is used to fund health care, education, etc etc.  These are “goods and services” that are provided which people is much poorer countries do not have access to.  As a result, this factor will be making you look less relatively wealthy than you actually are!

Perspective, it’s interesting.