Fun With Numbers

Recently I heard a couple of news items that started me thinking. The first was a comment that the US Gross National Product (GNP) is in the vicinity of 13 trillion dollars. That’s $13,000,000,000,000 ! A tremendous sum of money in any terms. The second news item was that sometime this month the population of the US will reach 300 million.

Being a mathophile I couldn’t resist dividing the GNP by the population. The result; $43,333. That is the amount of wealth produced by every single US citizen, assuming that they all contributed equally.

Of course it’s not that simple for a number of reasons. One reason is that not all people work. Children, the elderly, invalids, the unemployed and others reduce the real size of the work force. In 2006 the actual number of people employed in the US was around 144 million. Using this number gives $90,277 as the average value produced by every worker.

I’m not suggesting that every worker contributes the same to the GNP nor do I believe that the wealth produced should be distributed on a per capita basis. These numbers are only averages.

Yet I can’t help compare that $90,277 with the 2006 average workers income of $29,000. That simply points out the tremendous difference between the rich and the poor in this country. It makes me wonder how long the average worker can continue to believe in the American Dream when they share so little of the wealth they help produce.

Income and employment statistics from The Bureau of Labor Statistics

3 comments on “Fun With Numbers

  1. How sad to think of the difference between the average income vs. the average value. People keep saying that the number of ‘middle income’ families are disappearing with the gap between low and high becoming more prevalent.

  2. I agree – there is an inequity. But for some reason this reminds me of Mark Twain’s example of how just looking at the bare numbers can be misleading:

    “In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. Therefore … in the Old Silurian Period the Mississippi River was upward of one million three hundred thousand miles long … seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long… There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesome returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”

    But I still think your observation is on the mark.