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Every poor person in the United States would get a one-time payout of $1,736 if Bill Gates—the richest US citizen—distributed the total value of his assets equally among the US population living below the poverty line. This data is based on analysis from the Robin Hood Index, created by Bloomberg, which compares the net worth of the richest billionaires in 42 countries with the number of individuals below the national poverty line in those same countries to show the theoretical gain to the poor from the distribution of each country's wealthiest citizen.

  • According to the most recent index, the poor of Cyprus, Sweden and Taiwan would stand to gain the most from the distribution of the assets of their richest compatriots. Every poor person would gain $45,987, $33,149, and $26,957, respectively, sums that would last a person living on $1.9 a day in the range of 39 to 66 years.
  • Payout of the wealthiest individual's assests in India, the second most populous country in the world, would be the smallest of any of the countries captured in the Robin Hood Index.

The size of the windfalls in the top ranked countries are unsurprising given the small populations and relatively high living standards of these countries. Cyprus, Sweden, and Taiwan are each in the top 30 countries by GDP per capita. In sharp contrast, with about 20 percent of the population of India living in poverty, the $19.2 billion net worth of the richest Indian would amount to only $59 per poor person in India, or approximately one month at $1.9 per day.

The Robin Hood Index represents just one of many methods to help us to understand how unequally the world's wealth is distributed. A wide range of statistical measures exist to support analysis of income inequality. Following are three examples:

  1. According to Oxfam, 85 of the world's richest people have a combined wealth that is nearly equal to the wealth of the 3.5 billion people belonging to the bottom 50 percent population of the world by income.
  2. The World Top Incomes Database shows that the ultra-wealthy in the United States are the most powerful in the world. A mere 0.01 percent of the US population holds about 3 percent of the US’ national wealth.
  3. One could also compare the wealth of the world's richest people to national GDPs to analyze income distribution. Based on the Forbes World's Billionaires list, the combined wealth of world’s 1,810 billionaires—only 0.00002% of the total global population—equals 9 percent of the world's GDP.

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