Is the US Becoming a Third World Country?

The simplest way to say whether a country is rich or poor is to add up its cumulative wealth, which is usually stated in terms of GDP. Sometimes this number is divided by the number of people in a country to say what the average wealth is: GDP per capita. And for a lot of purposes, including the overall economic strength of a country in an international context, that’s a useful definition of wealth. But it’s not a sufficient criterion for determining whether a society is wealthy. For instance, it’s theoretically possible that a country could have a larger per capita GDP than any other country on the planet, but also for all that wealth to be controlled by a single autocratic leader to whom everyone else is enslaved. In the crudest economic terms, that society could be considered wealthy, even though all but one person would be utterly impoverished. So to determine whether a society is truly wealthy, some account needs to be taken of the distribution of wealth.

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