Per capita income

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The per capita income for a group of people may be defined as their total personal income, divided by the total population. Per capita income is usually reported in units of currency per year.

Per capita income as a measure of wealth

Per capita income is often used as a measure of the wealth of the population of a nation, particularly in comparison to other nations. It is usually expressed in terms of a commonly-used international currency such as the Euro or United States dollar, and is useful because it is widely known and produces a straightforward statistic for comparison.

Particularly when comparing countries with substantially different levels of wealth, however, it has several weaknesses as a measurement.

  • Economic activity that does not result in monetary income, such as services provided within the family, or for barter, are usually not counted. The importance of these services will vary widely between different economies, both between countries and among different groups within a country. See: Informal economy
  • Per capita income gives no indication of the distribution of that income within the country, so a small wealthy class can increase the measured per-capita income far above that of the majority of the population. See: Income inequality metrics
  • Differing currency exchange rates between countries mean that a given amount of money (for example, one US dollar) has differing values in different places. See: Purchasing power

Some national per capita income levels

Data on Per capita income based on a country's total personal income is very difficult to find.

Much more commonly used due to its availability is the Gross domestic product (GDP).

Total personal income is lower than the Gross domestic income.

A ranking of the (probably) top ten countries by GDP per capita (in PPP-$, purchasing power parity-$):

  1. Luxembourg $58,900
  2. United States $40,100
  3. Norway $40,000
  4. Jersey $40,000
  5. Guernsey, $40,000
  6. Bermuda $36,000
  7. San Marino $34,600
  8. Hong Kong, $34,200
  9. Switzerland $33,800
  10. Cayman Islands $32,300

The lowest-ranked is East Timor with a per capita GDP of PPP $400

Source: CIA World Factbook, 2005

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