Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy My Street

Anxiety and materialism are close cousins.  The anxious person fears his or her lack: lack of security, lack of wealth, lack of safety.  This Sunday, we will discover that our tendency to become anxious reveals we don't trust our heavenly Father.

This past Sunday, I mentioned an article by Frank Turk at the Team Pyro blog.  The graphs I showed may have been a little hard to see, so I thought I'd reproduce the two graphs I showed here and direct you to his article here for his excellent observations:

By the way, Turk used Gapminder World to construct his graphs and make his observations, which you can find here

The first graph, if you recall, shows the average life expectancy and median per capita income in the year 1800.

The second graph shows us in 2010:

Turk writes:
The green line there is the median household income for the United States in 2010. If you have forgotten 6th grade math, the "median" in a series of numbers is not the average of the series: it is the number in the middle of the series. So if you lined up the incomes for all 113,146,000 households with incomes in 2010, the value in the dead center of the list is $ 44,389.00 This is an interesting number as it shows how incomes skew either to the high end or the low end of the distribution -- and given that the mean household income is north of $60,000, I grant you it shows that the household incomes in the U.S. skew lower than average.
But see here: that green line has a startling place on the graph of world economies. There are only 4 nations that have an average per cap GDP higher than our median household income -- so the median household in the U.S. has it pretty good. And that value has special meaning relative to Rosling's video: Rosling classifies income of $40,000 as rich.
Rich! Isn't that awesome? That puts your complaints into a certain light, but there's one more vertical line I want to stripe in here:

You may not be familiar with the quintile rankings for income, so briefly: if you took that list of 113,146,000 households again in lowest-to-highest rank, and broke them up into five evenly-sized groups, you would have quintiles of income. The break point between the 1st (lowest) and 2nd quintile is at $18,500 -- meaning the bottom 1/5th of households in the US have an annual income of under $18,500. That sounds pretty scary, right? That's the kind of thing you are out in the street trying to educate us about, yes?

But check it out: the line where you and I would say is the line which designates the poorest of the poor is well above the per capita income of more than 85% of the world's population. It's a level of income 80% greater than the per cap GDP of South Africa, 30% greater than Russia, and six times greater than that of India.

That is: we define poverty in an opulent way. Compared to the UK in 1800, we have defined the crown of Western Civilization to that time down to a dirty little country which we would be offended to live in. The great part about this is the punchline: it's because we're greedy.
"It's because we're greedy."  His words are hard to take, but he's right.  The problem with the world is not only found in greedy fat cats on Wall Street, nor grungy kids in the streets.  The problem is within men.  The protestors, if they want to find examples of greed need not go to Wall Street--they can come to My Street.
I'm excited to be going through the Gospel of Luke with you and being challenged to live for God's glory in a more profound and radical way.

1 comment:

Luke said...

Here's a neat video using similar data. It's a secular worldview, but the data is interesting.