Comparing the Wealth of U.S. Geographic Regions Over Time
The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.
Every year, the average American takes home about $51,600 in personal income.
Of course, what you make each year depends on factors like your job, work ethic, education, and personal circumstances – but it also varies significantly over geography.
The Geographical Wage Gap
Today’s chart uses data from the Brookings Institute, and it focuses on the geographical wage gap, or the difference in per capita income that exists between various U.S. regions.
Interestingly, it’s a gap that has historically narrowed over time.
Just after the Great Depression, income per capita in the Mideast was 50% higher than the average American, and roughly three times higher than in the Southeast. Over the next 50 years, this gap would continue to narrow until reaching its smallest differential by the mid-1980s.
In the last couple of decades, however, the geographical wage gap has shown signs of a potential reversal: per capita incomes in New England, Mideast, and Far West have been increasing relative to the average American wage, while other regions are remaining more stagnant.
The Vitality Index
Wages are just one factor in measuring prosperity, and the Brookings Institute has attempted to create a more well-rounded approach to this with the Vitality Index.
The Vitality Index is comprised of the following variables:
- Median household income – 45%
- Poverty rate – 24%
- Life expectancy – 13%
- Prime-age employment-to-population ratio – 9%
- Housing vacancy rate – 5%
- Unemployment rate – 4%
The following map is directly from the aforementioned report, and it shows the Vitality Index by county, using recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau:
Which areas have seen the biggest increases and decreases in vitality?
The Great Lakes region, which relies heavily on manufacturing, has seen the most significant drop between 1980-2016, while the Mideast has seen the biggest rise over that same 26 year period.
Cost of Living
One fair point of objection to the analysis of the Vitality Index – or any measure of economic differences between geographic regions – is that cost of living is not taken directly into account.
Here is what the researchers had to say on this:
It would be reasonable to adjust median household income for cost of living, but we opted to not do this for two reasons. First, cost-of-living estimates that are comparable across places are not available for 1980. Second, cost of living may vary for reasons that are directly related to the county vitality we seek to measure. For example, a place with stronger labor demand or better local public goods could attract in-migration that contributes to higher housing prices. Finally, cost of living may reflect the amenity value of a place, and not simply inflated prices for the same goods and services.
No analysis is perfect, but the Vitality Index and historical data on per capita income are interesting to consider when framing any analysis on wages, prosperity, and economic inequality in America.
Mapped: The 50 Richest Women in the World in 2021
Fewer than 12% of global billionaires are women, but they still hold massive amounts of wealth. Who are the 50 richest women in the world?
Mapped: The 50 Richest Women in the World in 2021
View the high-resolution of the infographic by clicking here.
According to a recent census by Wealth-X, 11.9% of global billionaires are women. Even at such a minority share, this group still holds massive amounts of wealth.
Using a real-time list of billionaires from Forbes, we examine the net worth of the 50 richest women in the world and which country they’re from.
Where are the World’s Richest Women?
The richest woman in the world, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers and family own 33% of stock in L’Oréal S.A., a French personal care brand. She is also the granddaughter of its founder.
In April 2019, L’Oréal and the Bettencourt Meyers family pledged $226 million (€200 million) towards the repair of the Notre Dame cathedral after its devastating fire.
Following closely behind is Alice Walton of the Walmart empire—also the world’s richest family. Together with her brothers, they own over 50% of the company’s shares. That’s a pretty tidy sum, considering Walmart raked in $524 billion in revenues in their 2020 fiscal year.
Other family ties among the richest women in the world include Jacqueline Mars and her four granddaughters, heiresses to a slice of the Mars Inc. fortune in candy and pet food—and all of them make this list.
|Rank||Name||Net Worth ($B)||Country|
|#1||Francoise Bettencourt Meyers & family||$71.4||🇫🇷 France|
|#2||Alice Walton||$68.0||🇺🇸 United States|
|#3||MacKenzie Scott||$54.9||🇺🇸 United States|
|#4||Julia Koch & family||$44.9||🇺🇸 United States|
|#5||Yang Huiyan & family||$31.4||🇨🇳 China|
|#6||Jacqueline Mars||$28.9||🇺🇸 United States|
|#7||Susanne Klatten||$25.8||🇩🇪 Germany|
|#8||Zhong Huijuan||$23.5||🇨🇳 China|
|#9||Laurene Powell Jobs & family||$22.1||🇺🇸 United States|
|#10||Iris Fontbona & family||$21.0||🇨🇱 Chile|
|#11||Zhou Qunfei & family||$18.6||🇭🇰 Hong Kong|
|#12||Fan Hongwei & family||$17.9||🇨🇳 China|
|#13||Gina Rinehart||$17.4||🇦🇺 Australia|
|#14||Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken & family||$17.1||🇳🇱 Netherlands|
|#15||Wu Yajun||$16.3||🇨🇳 China|
|#16||Abigail Johnson||$15.0||🇺🇸 United States|
|#17||Kirsten Rausing||$13.5||🇸🇪 Sweden|
|#18||Kwong Siu-hing||$13.0||🇭🇰 Hong Kong|
|#19||Lu Zhongfang||$12.7||🇨🇳 China|
|#20||Wang Laichun||$12.7||🇨🇳 China|
|#21||Cheng Xue||$10.8||🇨🇳 China|
|#22||Massimiliana Landini Aleotti & family||$10.6||🇮🇹 Italy|
|#23||Denise Coates||$9.9||🇬🇧 United Kingdom|
|#24||Lam Wai Ying||$9.1||🇭🇰 Hong Kong|
|#25||Ann Walton Kroenke||$9.1||🇺🇸 United States|
|#26||Savitri Jindal & family||$8.7||🇮🇳 India|
|#27||Nancy Walton Laurie||$8.2||🇺🇸 United States|
|#28||Blair Parry-Okeden||$8.2||🇺🇸 United States|
|#29||Diane Hendricks||$8.0||🇺🇸 United States|
|#30||Christy Walton||$7.8||🇺🇸 United States|
|#31||Zhao Yan||$7.8||🇨🇳 China|
|#32||Zeng Fangqin||$7.6||🇨🇳 China|
|#33||Magdalena Martullo-Blocher||$7.5||🇨🇭 Switzerland|
|#34||Rahel Blocher||$7.4||🇨🇭 Switzerland|
|#35||Marie-Hélène Habert||$7.2||🇫🇷 France|
|#36||Pamela Mars||$7.2||🇺🇸 United States|
|#37||Victoria Mars||$7.2||🇺🇸 United States|
|#38||Valerie Mars||$7.2||🇺🇸 United States|
|#39||Marijke Mars||$7.2||🇺🇸 United States|
|#40||Sandra Ortega Mera||$7.1||🇪🇸 Spain|
|#41||Antonia Ax:son Johnson & family||$7.0||🇸🇪 Sweden|
|#42||Sofie Kirk Kristiansen||$6.9||🇩🇰 Denmark|
|#43||Agnete Kirk Thinggaard||$6.9||🇩🇰 Denmark|
|#44||Li Haiyan||$6.7||🇨🇳 China|
|#45||Ronda Stryker||$6.6||🇺🇸 United States|
|#46||Marie Besnier Beauvalot||$6.3||🇫🇷 France|
|#47||Zheng Shuliang & family||$6.2||🇨🇳 China|
|#48||Meg Whitman||$5.8||🇺🇸 United States|
|#49||Chan Laiwa & family||$5.8||🇨🇳 China|
|#50||Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala & family||$5.8||🇲🇽 Mexico|
All data as of January 15, 2021 (9AM PST)
MacKenzie Scott, ranked #3 on the list, was heavily involved in the early days of turning Amazon into an e-commerce behemoth. She was involved in areas from bookkeeping and accounts to negotiating the company’s first freight contract. Her high-profile divorce from Jeff Bezos captured the headlines, notably because she gained control over 4% of Amazon’s outstanding shares.
The total value of these shares? An eye-watering $38.3 billion—propelling her to the status of one of America’s richest people.
However, MacKenzie Scott has more altruistic ventures in mind for this wealth. In 2020, she gave away $5.8 billion towards causes such as climate change and racial equality in just four months, and is a signatory on the Giving Pledge.
[Scott’s near $6 billion donation has] to be one of the biggest annual distributions by a living individual.
—Melissa Berman, CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
Looking towards the East, Yang Huiyan became the richest woman in Asia after inheriting 70% of shares in the property development company Country Garden Holdings. The company went public in 2007, raising $1.6 billion in its IPO—an amount comparable to Google’s IPO in 2004.
To aid frontline health workers during the pandemic, Country Garden Holdings set up robotic, automated buffet stations to safely serve medical staff in Wuhan, China.
While the 50 richest women in the world have certainly made progress, the overall tier of billionaires is still very much a boys’ club. One thing that also factors into this could be the way this wealth is spent.
As many female billionaires inherited their wealth, a large share are more inclined to contribute to charitable causes where they can use their money to make an impact. What percentage of billionaires by gender have contributed at least $1 million in donations over the past five years?
Made $1mm in donations over last 5 years (%)
|Source of wealth||👩 Female philanthropists||👨 Male philanthropists|
Meanwhile, male billionaires are more likely to donate to charity if they built the wealth themselves—and many companies that fall into this category certainly stepped up during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis.
Putting the Cost of COVID-19 in Perspective
Putting the Economic Cost of COVID-19 in Perspective
When it comes to the toll on human life, mental well-being, and any long-term complications, the true cost of COVID-19 can be difficult to quantify.
That said, from a purely economic angle, researchers can and do examine these things—as well as economic data like unemployment and lost GDP, to assign dollar figures to the pandemic.
Using data from a study out of Harvard University, these visualizations focus on putting the economic cost of COVID-19 in the U.S. in perspective. To help us understand the immense price associated with a pandemic, the study looked at other comparables like the costs of running America’s longstanding war on terror.
The Cost of COVID-19
Since the pandemic took hold in the U.S. in March 2020, job loss has been one of the most significant consequences. Unemployment claims in the U.S. have recently reached a total of 60 million, while lost GDP is estimated to be around $7.6 trillion.
Unemployment, uncertainty, lost loved ones, and lost social connections, have led to spikes in depression and anxiety. In April 2020, around 40% of U.S. adults reported having at least one of these mental illnesses. Based on the sheer number of people struggling, the cost of mental health impairment could be as high as $1.6 trillion, according to these researchers.
|Lost Gross Domestic Product (GDP)||$7,592|
|Long-Term Health Impairment||$2,572|
|Mental Health Impairment||$1,581|
The economic value of a human life can be put in terms of ‘statistical lives’, a notion used in both American and global health policy. While human life is priceless, the value tied to one using this metric sits between $7-$10 million. Even when using the lower end of the scale, the cost of premature death due to COVID-19 is estimated to be $4.4 trillion.
Finally, when looking at the long-term healthcare costs that could impact people who contract COVID-19, the price comes out to almost $2.6 trillion. These costs will go on for decades as certain lifelong conditions can emerge out of COVID-19, like respiratory and cardiovascular issues.
Many of these conditions could also end up causing premature deaths, drawing out the total cost of COVID-19 even further.
The Cost of War
Both a global pandemic and a war have long-term health consequences and are extremely pricey.
The estimated cost of the post-9/11 wars rises to over $6 trillion. This is measured by the spending of the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and USAID. The estimate also takes into consideration current and future spending on medical and disability care for veterans, the cost of war appropriations and spending, the estimated interest on borrowing for different departments, and the spending the Department of Homeland Security has done in order to prevent and respond to terrorism.
|Department of Defense||$1,959|
|Estimated Interest on Borrowing for DOD and State Dept OCO Spending||$925|
|Estimated Increases to DOD Base Budget Due to Post-9-11 Wars||$803|
|"OCO for Base” a new category of spending in FY2019 and FY2020||$100|
|Medical and Disability Care for Post-9/11 Veterans||$437|
|Homeland Security Spending for Prevention and Response to Terrorism||$1,054|
|Total War Appropriations and War-Related Spending through FY 2020||$5,409|
|Estimated Future Obligations for Veterans Medical and Disability FY2020 –FY2059||$1,000|
|Total War-Related Spending through FY2020 and Obligations for Veterans||$6,409|
Medical and disability care for veterans from the post-9/11 wars specifically comes out to $437 billion, with estimated future obligations for their care going up to $1 trillion.
The increases to the Department of Defense’s budget was $803 billion thanks to the post 9/11 wars, and the Department of Homeland Security has spent more $1.05 trillion on terrorism prevention and response.
While the costs associated with war are immense, and while the consequences of fighting in a war are usually lifelong, the estimated price is still about $10 trillion cheaper than the cost of COVID-19 in the United States.
Throwing Money at the Problem?
The short-term solution to COVID-19 seems to be vaccine investment, with the U.S. currently purchasing more than one billion doses. Vaccines could spell the return to a more normal life, both in terms of physical health and the health of the economy.
While economic recovery is on the horizon, the U.S—and other nations around the globe—will continue to pay the cost of COVID-19 for years to come.
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