Landmark #3: Wealth and Poverty

Income Levels in the U.S.


Check Your Guess

Okay, now check the guess that you made on the last page. Here's the same graph again, but this time with the scale on bottom. Find your gross annual income on the scale at the bottom and draw an imaginary vertical line to the top. What percentage of Americans earn less than you do? Compare this result to the answer you gave in the exercise on the previous page. Were your perceptions accurate?

Income Distribution in the United States in 1992 graph of income distribution in the US in 1991

Think Globally

By now you should have a pretty good idea of where you fit in among Americans. Now let's move on to take a global perspective.

Exercise Think a little bit about the things you take for granted -- clean drinking water, refrigerated food, affordable birth control, nutritionally sufficient food, and perhaps even convenient access to a car, a TV, and a phone. Fill in the chart below to show which of these four things you have in your household, how many of each of them you think exist worldwide, and what portion of the world population has access to them.
How many of these do you have in your household?
TV phone
car fridge
How many of these do you think exist in the world?
TV phone
car fridge
How many people do you think have one in their household?
TV phone
car fridge

Finding authoritative answers to these questions is left as an exercise for the reader. Try going to a local library and asking a reference librarian for advice about where to find this information. While you're at the library, check out some of the books that I recommend in the Appendix.


The Bottom Line
Check your guess from the previous page. What percentage of Americans have income levels below yours? How accurate was your perception of where you stand?

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