According to America’s leading nonfinancial newspaper – which I would not want to embarrass by naming it – if you tell you make $75,301 a year, ‘you are the 49,205,295th richest person in the world, which puts you in the top 20 percent worldwide in terms of income.

Ah, the Innumeracy – or just complete lack of clue. Can a writer or editor at the newspaper of record (who very possibly earns $75,301 himself) actually think that 20% of the world’s 6-plus billion people earn $75,000 or more? (Or that 49 million people equal 20% of the world’s population? It doesn’t even equal 20% of the US population!)

Actually, of course, the paper was off by a factor a 100. says that someone earning $75,301 was in the ‘top .82%,’ so the writer presumably rounded it to .80% and then ignored the decimal point before the 8.

If you are the 49,205,295th richest person in the world, you are richer than 99.18% of your planetary neighbors, not 80%.

Obviously, there are limits to the accuracy and meaningfulness of all this – $75,000 in New York City doesn’t make you richer than someone earning $40,000 in Iowa, let alone Peru.

And the Global Rich calculator doesn’t distinguish among the really fortunate: whether you make a quarter million or 50 million a year, it says you are ‘the 107,565th richest’ person on the planet, in the top one-thousandth of one percent (which would imply a global population of 10.7 billion instead of the 6.7 billion or so we really are, so there must be some rounding errors in their calculator as well).

But you get the point, and it is nicely made: you are probably better off than you realize. (Certainly that’s true of the newspaperman who thinks he’s only in the top 20% when in fact he’s in the top eighty-two hundredths of one percent.)

Being a site designed to encourage charitable giving, goes on to note: ‘$8 could buy you 15 organic apples OR 25 fruit trees for farmers in Honduras to grow and sell fruit at their local market. $73 could buy you a new mobile phone OR a new mobile health clinic to care for AIDS orphans in Uganda. $2400 could buy you a second generation High Definition TV OR schooling for an entire generation of school children in an Angolan village.’

We have so much to be thankful for – most of us, anyway – that I couldn’t wait until Thursday to say it: Happy Thanksgiving.

Tomorrow (which, through a warp in the universe, you can read today): Borealis, Figs, and More.


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