Mapped: The 3 Billion People Who Can't Afford a Healthy Diet
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Mapped: The 3 Billion People Who Can’t Afford a Healthy Diet

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Mapped: The 3 Billion People Can't Afford a Healthy Diet

The 3 Billion People Who Can’t Afford a Healthy Diet

While they aren’t often the focus of news media, hunger and undernourishment are problems plaguing millions of people every day.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than 3 billion people could not afford a healthy diet in 2020, an additional 112 million more people than in 2019. The increase was partly because of rising food prices, with the average cost of a healthy diet rising by 3.3% from 2019 levels.

As of August 2022, the FAO food price index was up 40.6% from average 2020 levels. Unless income levels increased by a similar magnitude, the healthy diet crisis is likely to have worsened, especially in low-income countries experiencing rampant food inflation.

Using data from the FAO, the above infographic maps the share of people unable to afford a healthy diet in 138 different countries as of 2020 (latest available data).

The Cost and Affordability of a Healthy Diet

According to the FAO, a healthy diet is one that meets daily energy needs as well as requirements within the food and dietary guidelines created by the country.

The (un)affordability is measured by comparing the cost of a healthy diet to income levels in the country. If the cost exceeds 52% of an average household’s income, the diet is deemed unaffordable.

Here’s a look at the share of populations unable to afford a healthy diet, and the cost of such a diet around the world:

CountryPercent of population unable to afford a healthy dietCost of Healthy Diet (USD per Person per Day)
Burundi 🇧🇮97.2%$2.9
Madagascar 🇲🇬97.0%$3.2
Liberia 🇱🇷96.8%$3.9
Malawi 🇲🇼96.6%$3.1
Nigeria 🇳🇬95.9%$4.1
Central African Republic 🇨🇫95.1%$3.6
Guinea 🇬🇳94.9%$4.1
Angola 🇦🇴94.3%$4.5
Congo 🇨🇬92.4%$3.4
Sudan 🇸🇩91.8%$4.3
Mozambique 🇲🇿91.5%$3.2
Democratic Republic of Congo 🇨🇩90.0%$2.1
Sierra Leone 🇸🇱89.2%$2.9
Niger 🇳🇪88.8%$2.9
Zambia 🇿🇲88.0%$3.3
Tanzania 🇹🇿87.6%$2.7
Guinea-Bissau 🇬🇼87.2%$3.5
Ethiopia 🇪🇹86.8%$3.4
Rwanda 🇷🇼86.3%$2.7
Haiti 🇭🇹85.9%$4.5
Sao Tome and Principe 🇸🇹84.7%$3.6
Nepal 🇳🇵84.0%$4.4
Lesotho 🇱🇸83.5%$4.3
Pakistan 🇵🇰83.5%$3.7
Chad 🇹🇩83.4%$2.8
Benin 🇧🇯82.9%$3.7
Uganda 🇺🇬82.2%$2.7
Kenya 🇰🇪81.1%$3.0
Burkina Faso 🇧🇫80.1%$3.3
Laos 🇱🇦79.8%$4.1
Mali 🇲🇱74.3%$3.1
Bangladesh 🇧🇩73.5%$3.1
Egypt 🇪🇬72.9%$3.4
Eswatini 🇸🇿71.8%$3.4
India 🇮🇳70.5%$3.0
Indonesia 🇮🇩69.1%$4.5
Philippines 🇵🇭68.6%$4.1
Jamaica 🇯🇲66.2%$6.7
South Africa 🇿🇦65.2%$4.3
Myanmar 🇲🇲65.1%$4.2
Gambia 🇬🇲64.0%$3.1
Djibouti 🇩🇯63.9%$3.1
Botswana 🇧🇼61.4%$3.7
Ghana 🇬🇭61.2%$4.0
Cameroon 🇨🇲60.7%$2.8
Mauritania 🇲🇷60.7%$3.7
Fiji 🇫🇯60.4%$3.9
Suriname 🇸🇷58.8%$5.7
Namibia 🇳🇦56.8%$3.5
Bhutan 🇧🇹53.0%$5.0
Mongolia 🇲🇳51.4%$5.1
Honduras 🇭🇳51.3%$3.5
Iraq 🇮🇶49.6%$3.5
Kyrgyzstan 🇰🇬49.6%$3.2
Sri Lanka 🇱🇰49.0%$3.9
Senegal 🇸🇳46.0%$2.3
Guyana 🇬🇾43.0%$4.9
Armenia 🇦🇲42.9%$3.2
Tajikistan 🇹🇯42.1%$3.5
Cabo Verde 🇨🇻38.1%$3.6
Belize 🇧🇿36.4%$2.1
Gabon 🇬🇦36.3%$3.6
Nicaragua 🇳🇮35.7%$3.3
Algeria 🇩🇿30.2%$3.8
Vietnam 🇻🇳30.0%$4.1
Colombia 🇨🇴26.5%$3.1
Mexico 🇲🇽26.3%$3.3
Bolivia 🇧🇴24.7%$3.8
Palestine 🇵🇸23.1%$3.4
Ecuador 🇪🇨21.4%$2.9
Saint Lucia 🇱🇨20.6%$3.6
Peru 🇵🇪20.5%$3.3
Iran 🇮🇷20.3%$3.6
Tunisia 🇹🇳20.3%$3.6
Albania 🇦🇱20.1%$4.2
Brazil 🇧🇷19.0%$3.1
Dominican Republic 🇩🇴18.3%$3.9
Panama 🇵🇦18.2%$4.5
North Macedonia 🇲🇰18.0%$3.4
Paraguay 🇵🇾17.8%$3.5
Montenegro 🇲🇪17.5%$3.5
Thailand 🇹🇭17.0%$4.3
Costa Rica 🇨🇷16.8%$4.1
Morocco 🇲🇦16.7%$2.8
Serbia 🇷🇸16.3%$4.2
Jordan 🇯🇴14.9%$3.6
Mauritius 🇲🇺13.5%$3.6
China 🇨🇳12.0%$3.0
Trinidad and Tobago 🇹🇹11.6%$4.2
Romania 🇷🇴8.8%$3.2
Bulgaria 🇧🇬8.5%$4.1
Seychelles 🇸🇨6.8%$3.8
Moldova 🇲🇩6.7%$2.8
Chile 🇨🇱3.8%$3.4
Croatia 🇭🇷3.8%$4.3
Bosnia and Herzegovina 🇧🇦3.7%$4.0
Uruguay 🇺🇾3.6%$3.4
Russia 🇷🇺3.5%$3.4
Greece 🇬🇷3.2%$3.1
Italy 🇮🇹2.9%$3.1
Japan 🇯🇵2.5%$5.8
Hungary 🇭🇺2.0%$3.5
Spain 🇪🇸2.0%$2.8
Malaysia 🇲🇾1.9%$3.5
Latvia 🇱🇻1.8%$3.2
South Korea 🇰🇷1.7%$5.2
United States 🇺🇸1.5%$3.4
Maldives 🇲🇻1.4%$3.9
Estonia 🇪🇪1.3%$3.3
Kazakhstan 🇰🇿1.2%$2.7
Lithuania 🇱🇹1.2%$3.1
Slovakia 🇸🇰1.2%$3.2
Israel 🇮🇱1.0%$2.5
Poland 🇵🇱1.0%$3.2
Austria 🇦🇹0.8%$3.0
Australia 🇦🇺0.7%$2.6
Canada 🇨🇦0.7%$3.0
Malta 🇲🇹0.7%$3.8
Sweden 🇸🇪0.6%$3.3
Portugal 🇵🇹0.5%$2.7
United Kingdom 🇬🇧0.5%$1.9
Denmark 🇩🇰0.4%$2.5
Norway 🇳🇴0.4%$3.5
Cyprus 🇨🇾0.3%$3.0
Belarus 🇧🇾0.2%$3.3
Belgium 🇧🇪0.2%$3.1
Czechia0.2%$3.0
Germany 🇩🇪0.2%$3.0
Netherlands 🇳🇱0.2%$3.0
Finland 🇫🇮0.1%$2.7
France 🇫🇷0.1%$3.2
Ireland 🇮🇪0.1%$2.2
Luxembourg 🇱🇺0.1%$2.7
Slovenia 🇸🇮0.1%$3.1
Azerbaijan 🇦🇿0.0%$2.5
Iceland 🇮🇸0.0%$2.4
Switzerland 🇨🇭0.0%$2.7
United Arab Emirates 🇦🇪0.0%$3.1
World 🌎42.0%$3.5

In 52 countries, more than half of the population cannot afford a healthy diet. The majority of these are in Africa, with the rest located across Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.

By contrast, in four countries—Azerbaijan, Iceland, Switzerland, and the UAE—everyone is able to afford a healthy diet. The picture is similar for most European and developed high-income countries, where more than 95% of the population can afford a healthy diet.

When the percentages are translated into numbers, Asia contains the most number of people unable to afford a healthy diet at 1.89 billion, of which 973 million people are in India alone. Another 1 billion people are in Africa, with around 151 million people in the Americas and Oceania.

While hunger is a worldwide concern, it is particularly acute in African countries, which cover all of the top 20 spots in the above table.

Africa’s Deepening Food Crisis

In many countries across sub-Saharan Africa, more than 90% of the population cannot afford a healthy diet.

Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly susceptible to extreme climate events and the resulting volatility in food prices. Roughly one-third of the world’s droughts occur in the region, and some sub-Saharan countries are also heavily reliant on imports for food.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has deepened the crisis, with many African countries importing over 50% of their wheat from the two countries in conflict. The rising food prices from this supply chain disruption have resulted in double-digit food inflation in many African nations, which means that more people are likely to be unable to afford healthy diets.

The Horn of Africa region at the Eastern tip of Africa is particularly in turmoil. All the countries in the region are reliant on wheat from Russia and Ukraine, with Eritrea (100%) and Somalia (>90%) high up in the import dependency chart. Additionally, the region is facing its worst drought in 40 years alongside ongoing political conflicts. As a result, 22 million people are at risk of starvation.

Population Growth and Food Insecurity

In November of 2022, the global population is projected to surpass 8 billion people, and many of the fastest growing countries are also food-insecure.

By 2050, the global population is likely to increase by 35%, and to meet the growing demand for food, crop production will need to double. Given that agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, this increase in crop production will also need to be environmentally sustainable.

As the impacts of climate change intensify and food demand increases, reducing food waste, building climate-resilient agricultural infrastructure, and improving agricultural productivity will all play a key role in reducing the levels of food insecurity sustainably.

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Money

Mapped: Which Countries Have the Highest Inflation?

Many countries around the world are facing double or triple-digit inflation. See which countries have the highest inflation rates on this map.

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Mapped: Which Countries Have the Highest Inflation Rate?

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

Inflation is surging nearly everywhere in 2022.

Geopolitical tensions are triggering high energy costs, while supply-side disruptions are also distorting consumer prices. The end result is that almost half of countries worldwide are seeing double-digit inflation rates or higher.

With new macroeconomic forces shaping the global economy, the above infographic shows countries with the highest inflation rates, using data from Trading Economics.

Double-Digit Inflation in 2022

As the table below shows, countless countries are navigating record-high levels of inflation. Some are even facing triple-digit inflation rates. Globally, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, and Venezuela have the highest rates in the world.

CountryInflation Rate, Year-Over-YearDate
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe269.0%Oct 2022
🇱🇧 Lebanon162.0%Sep 2022
🇻🇪 Venezuela156.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇾 Syria139.0%Aug 2022
🇸🇩 Sudan103.0%Oct 2022
🇦🇷 Argentina88.0%Oct 2022
🇹🇷 Turkey85.5%Oct 2022
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka66.0%Oct 2022
🇮🇷 Iran52.2%Aug 2022
🇸🇷 Suriname41.4%Sep 2022
🇬🇭 Ghana40.4%Oct 2022
🇨🇺 Cuba37.2%Sep 2022
🇱🇦 Laos36.8%Oct 2022
🇲🇩 Moldova34.6%Oct 2022
🇪🇹 Ethiopia31.7%Oct 2022
🇷🇼 Rwanda31.0%Oct 2022
🇭🇹 Haiti30.5%Jul 2022
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone29.1%Sep 2022
🇵🇰 Pakistan26.6%Oct 2022
🇺🇦 Ukraine26.6%Oct 2022
🇲🇼 Malawi25.9%Sep 2022
🇱🇹 Lithuania23.6%Oct 2022
🇪🇪 Estonia22.5%Oct 2022
🇧🇮 Burundi22.1%Oct 2022
🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe21.9%Sep 2022
🇱🇻 Latvia21.8%Oct 2022
🇭🇺 Hungary21.1%Oct 2022
🇳🇬 Nigeria21.1%Oct 2022
🇲🇰 Macedonia19.8%Oct 2022
🇲🇲 Myanmar19.4%Jun 2022
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan18.8%Oct 2022
🇵🇱 Poland17.9%Oct 2022
🇧🇬 Bulgaria17.6%Oct 2022
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan17.5%Dec 2021
🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina17.3%Sep 2022
🇲🇪 Montenegro16.8%Oct 2022
🇦🇴 Angola16.7%Oct 2022
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso16.5%Sep 2022
🇪🇬 Egypt16.2%Oct 2022
🇰🇲 Comoros15.9%Sep 2022
🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan15.4%Oct 2022
🇷🇴 Romania15.3%Oct 2022
🇧🇾 Belarus15.2%Oct 2022
🇨🇿 Czech Republic15.1%Oct 2022
🇷🇸 Serbia15.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇰 Slovakia14.9%Oct 2022
🇲🇳 Mongolia14.5%Oct 2022
🇳🇱 Netherlands14.3%Oct 2022
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan13.7%Oct 2022
🇦🇫 Afghanistan13.6%Sep 2022
🇬🇲 Gambia13.3%Sep 2022
🇭🇷 Croatia13.2%Oct 2022
🇧🇼 Botswana13.1%Oct 2022
🇸🇳 Senegal13.0%Oct 2022
🇨🇱 Chile12.8%Oct 2022
🇽🇰 Kosovo12.7%Oct 2022
🇷🇺 Russia12.6%Oct 2022
🇬🇳 Guinea12.4%Jul 2022
🇧🇪 Belgium12.3%Oct 2022
🇨🇴 Colombia12.2%Oct 2022
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan12.2%Oct 2022
🇨🇬 Congo12.2%Oct 2022
🇳🇮 Nicaragua12.2%Oct 2022
🇰🇾 Cayman Islands12.1%Jun 2022
🇲🇺 Mauritius11.9%Oct 2022
🇲🇿 Mozambique11.8%Oct 2022
🇮🇹 Italy11.8%Oct 2022
🇲🇱 Mali11.3%Sep 2022
🇲🇷 Mauritania11.3%Sep 2022
🇬🇧 United Kingdom11.1%Oct 2022
🇦🇹 Austria11.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇪 Sweden10.9%Oct 2022
🇺🇬 Uganda10.7%Oct 2022
🇬🇪 Georgia10.6%Oct 2022
🇩🇪 Germany10.4%Oct 2022
🇭🇳 Honduras10.2%Oct 2022
🇩🇰 Denmark10.1%Oct 2022
🇵🇹 Portugal10.1%Oct 2022
🇯🇲 Jamaica9.9%Oct 2022
🇸🇮 Slovenia9.9%Oct 2022
🇬🇹 Guatemala9.7%Oct 2022
🇿🇲 Zambia9.7%Oct 2022
🇰🇪 Kenya9.6%Oct 2022
🇦🇲 Armenia9.5%Oct 2022
🇮🇸 Iceland9.4%Oct 2022
🇲🇬 Madagascar9.3%Aug 2022
🇮🇪 Ireland9.2%Oct 2022
🇱🇸 Lesotho9.2%Sep 2022
🇹🇳 Tunisia9.2%Oct 2022
🇬🇷 Greece9.1%Oct 2022
🇺🇾 Uruguay9.1%Oct 2022
🇨🇷 Costa Rica9.0%Oct 2022
🇧🇩 Bangladesh8.9%Oct 2022
🇨🇾 Cyprus8.8%Oct 2022
🇫🇴 Faroe Islands8.8%Sep 2022
🇩🇿 Algeria8.7%Sep 2022
🇳🇵 Nepal8.6%Sep 2022
🇸🇧 Solomon Islands8.5%Aug 2022
🇲🇽 Mexico8.4%Oct 2022
🇬🇼 Guinea Bissau8.4%Sep 2022
🇦🇱 Albania8.3%Oct 2022
🇧🇧 Barbados8.3%Aug 2022
🇫🇮 Finland8.3%Oct 2022
🇲🇦 Morocco8.3%Sep 2022
🇵🇪 Peru8.3%Oct 2022
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic8.2%Oct 2022
🇨🇻 Cape Verde8.2%Oct 2022
🇵🇾 Paraguay8.1%Oct 2022
🇹🇱 East Timor7.9%Sep 2022
🇹🇬 Togo7.9%Sep 2022
🇵🇭 Philippines7.7%Oct 2022
🇺🇸 U.S.7.7%Oct 2022
🇨🇲 Cameroon7.6%Sep 2022
🇳🇴 Norway7.5%Oct 2022
🇸🇬 Singapore7.5%Sep 2022
🇿🇦 South Africa7.5%Sep 2022
🇸🇻 El Salvador7.5%Oct 2022
🇲🇹 Malta7.4%Oct 2022
🇦🇺 Australia7.3%Sep 2022
🇪🇸 Spain7.3%Oct 2022
🇹🇩 Chad7.2%Sep 2022
🇳🇿 New Zealand7.2%Sep 2022
🇧🇿 Belize7.1%Sep 2022
🇳🇦 Namibia7.1%Oct 2022
🇦🇼 Aruba7.0%Sep 2022
🇨🇦 Canada6.9%Oct 2022
🇱🇺 Luxembourg6.9%Oct 2022
🇸🇴 Somalia6.9%Oct 2022
🇮🇳 India6.8%Oct 2022
🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates6.8%Jun 2022
🇬🇾 Guyana6.5%Sep 2022
🇱🇷 Liberia6.5%Jul 2022
🇧🇷 Brazil6.5%Oct 2022
🇧🇸 Bahamas6.3%Aug 2022
🇨🇮 Ivory Coast6.3%Sep 2022
🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago6.3%Aug 2022
🇫🇷 France6.2%Oct 2022
🇩🇯 Djibouti6.1%Sep 2022
🇵🇷 Puerto Rico6.1%Sep 2022
🇧🇹 Bhutan6.1%Sep 2022
🇧🇹 Qatar6.0%Sep 2022
🇹🇭 Thailand6.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇿 Swaziland5.8%Aug 2022
🇮🇩 Indonesia5.7%Oct 2022
🇰🇷 South Korea5.7%Oct 2022
🇹🇯 Tajikistan5.7%Sep 2022
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea5.5%Jun 2022
🇰🇭 Cambodia5.4%Jul 2022
🇮🇶 Iraq5.3%Sep 2022
🇯🇴 Jordan5.2%Oct 2022
🇫🇯 Fiji5.1%Sep 2022
🇮🇱 Israel5.1%Oct 2022
🇳🇨 New Caledonia5.0%Sep 2022
🇹🇿 Tanzania4.9%Oct 2022
🇧🇲 Bermuda4.5%Jul 2022
🇪🇷 Eritrea4.5%Dec 2021
🇲🇾 Malaysia4.5%Sep 2022
🇭🇰 Hong Kong4.4%Sep 2022
🇵🇸 Palestine4.4%Oct 2022
🇧🇳 Brunei4.3%Sep 2022
🇱🇾 Libya4.3%Sep 2022
🇻🇳 Vietnam4.3%Oct 2022
🇪🇨 Ecuador4.0%Oct 2022
🇧🇭 Bahrain4.0%Sep 2022
🇯🇵 Japan3.7%Oct 2022
🇰🇼 Kuwait3.2%Sep 2022
🇳🇪 Niger3.2%Sep 2022
🇲🇻 Maldives3.1%Sep 2022
🇬🇦 Gabon3.0%Jul 2022
🇱🇮 Liechtenstein3.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia3.0%Oct 2022
🇨🇭 Switzerland3.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇨 Seychelles2.9%Oct 2022
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea2.9%Dec 2021
🇧🇴 Bolivia2.9%Oct 2022
🇹🇼 Taiwan2.7%Oct 2022
🇨🇫 Central African Republic2.7%Dec 2021
🇻🇺 Vanuatu2.7%Mar 2022
🇴🇲 Oman2.4%Sep 2022
🇧🇯 Benin2.1%Oct 2022
🇨🇳 China2.1%Oct 2022
🇵🇦 Panama1.9%Sep 2022
🇲🇴 Macau1.1%Sep 2022
🇸🇸 South Sudan-2.5%Aug 2022

*Inflation rates based on the latest available data.

As price pressures mount, 33 central banks tracked by the Bank of International Settlements (out of a total of 38) have raised interest rates this year. These coordinated rate hikes are the largest in two decades, representing an end to an era of rock-bottom interest rates.

Going into 2023, central banks could continue this shift towards hawkish policies as inflation remains aggressively high.

The Role of Energy Prices

Driven by the war in Ukraine, energy inflation is pushing up the cost of living around the world.

Since October 2020, an index of global energy prices—made up of crude oil, natural gas, coal, and propane—has increased drastically.

Double-Digit Inflation

Compared to the 2021 average, natural gas prices in Europe are up sixfold. Real European household electricity prices are up 78% and gas prices have climbed even more, at 144% compared to 20-year averages.

Amid global competition for liquefied natural gas supplies, price pressures are likely to stay high, even though they have fallen recently. Other harmful consequences of the energy shock include price volatility, economic strain, and energy shortages.

“The world is in the midst of the first truly global energy crisis, with impacts that will be felt for years to come”.

-Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA

Double-Digit Inflation: Will it Last?

If history is an example, taming rising prices could take at least a few years yet.

Take the sky-high inflation of the 1980s. Italy, which managed to combat inflation faster than most countries, brought down inflation from 22% in 1980 to 4% in 1986.

If global inflation rates, which hover around 9.8% in 2022, were to follow this course, it would take at least until 2025 for levels to reach the 2% target.

It’s worth noting that inflation was also highly volatile over this decade. Consider how inflation fell across much of the rich world by 1981 but shot up again in 1987 amid higher energy prices. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell spoke to the volatility of inflation at their November meeting, indicating that high inflation has a chance of following a period of low inflation.

While the Federal Reserve projects U.S. inflation to fall closer to its 2% target by 2024, the road ahead could still get a lot bumpier between now and then.

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Money

Visualized: The Security Features of American Money

How can you tell a fake $100 bill from a real one? In this visual we break down the anatomy and security features of American money.

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American money

Visualized: The Security Features of of American Money

In 1739, Benjamin Franklin sought to tackle the issue of counterfeit money in America, using a printing press and leaves to create unique raised patterns on the colonial notes.

Almost 300 years later, Benjamin Franklin is the face of the U.S. $100 bill, and it is protected by a myriad of security features including secret images, special ink, hidden watermarks, and magnetic signatures, among others.

In this visual, we’ve broken down the $100 bill to showcase the anatomy of American currency.

The Makeup of American Money

There are 6 key features that identify real bills and protect the falsification of American money.

① Serial Numbers & EURion Constellation

The most basic form of security on an $100 bill is the serial number. Every bill has a unique number to record data on its production and keep track of how many individual bills are in circulation.

The EURion constellation is star-like grouping of yellow rings near the serial number. It is only detectable by imaging software.

② Color Changing Ink

This ink changes color at different angles thanks to small metallic flakes within the ink itself. The $100 bill, like all other paper bills in the U.S., has its value denoted in color changing ink on the bottom right-hand corner; unlike other bills, it also features a liberty bell image using the ink.

③ Microprinting

Microprinting allows for verifiable images that cannot be scanned by photocopiers or seen by the naked eye. The $100 bill has phrases like “USA 100” written invisibly in multiple places.

④ Intaglio Printing

Rather than regular ink pressed onto the paper, intaglio printing uses magnetic ink and every different bill value has a unique magnetic signature.

⑤ Security Threads & 3D Ribbons

The security thread is a clear, embedded, vertical thread running through the bill. It can only be seen under UV light, contains microprinted text specifying the bill’s value, and on each different bill value it glows a unique color.

Additionally, 3D ribbons are placed in the center of $100 bills with a pattern that slightly changes as it moves.

⑥ Paper, Fibers, & Watermarks

Because American money is made of cotton and linen, blue and red cloth fibers are woven into the material as another identifying feature. Finally, watermarks are found on most bills and can only be detected by light passing through the bill.

The Relevance of Cash

Here’s a look at the total number of each paper bill that is physically in circulation in the U.S.:

Physical Bill Billions of notes (2021)
$114.0
$21.4
$53.4
$102.3
$2011.9
$502.5
$10017.7
$500-$10,0000.0004
Total53.2

Interestingly, a number of $500-$10,000 dollar bills are in someone’s pockets. And while they are not issued anymore, the Fed still recognizes the originals of these bills that were legally put into circulation in the past.

$10,000 U.S. note (1934 series)

A $10,000 Federal Reserve Note (1934)

Additionally, there is fake money passing hands in the U.S. economy. Being the most widely-accepted currency in the world, it’s no wonder many try to falsely replicate American money. According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, there are approximately $70 million in counterfeit bills currently circulating in the country.

Finally, a natural question arises: how many people still use cash anyways?

Well, a study from Pew Research Center found that it while it is a dwindling share of the population, around 58% of people still use cash for some to all of their weekly purchases, down from 70% in 2018 and 75% in 2015.

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