If height and income were proportional, the average American would be waist high. The rich would be two miles tall. The poor? Nearly invisible.
Dovetailing off Cord's recent thoughts on American inequality (and inequity), The Economist presents a powerful way of imagining the gap between rich and poor in the United States:
Jan Pen, a Dutch economist who died last year, came up with a striking way to picture inequality. Imagine people’s height being proportional to their income, so that someone with an average income is of average height. Now imagine that the entire adult population of America is walking past you in a single hour, in ascending order of income.
The first passers-by, the owners of loss-making businesses, are invisible: their heads are below ground. Then come the jobless and the working poor, who are midgets. After half an hour the strollers are still only waist-high, since America’s median income is only half the mean. It takes nearly 45 minutes before normal-sized people appear. But then, in the final minutes, giants thunder by. With six minutes to go they are 12 feet tall. When the 400 highest earners walk by, right at the end, each is more than two miles tall.\n
Talk about a difference in perspective.
Image: Attack of the 50 Foot Woman