Wealth Distribution

Wealth Distribution
Anji Sisler
Anji Sisler

Advocate Anji Sisler created this wealth distribution activity that she uses in her Compassion presentations to help participants experience the disparity in the way resources are distributed in the world. (These statistics are accurate as of April 2010.)

DO FIRST: Call up 10 volunteers and line them up across the front of the room. Give each person an envelope labeled with one of these percentages: 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 100%. Each envelope has money sealed inside as explained below.

SAY: We have divided world’s population into 10 equal parts. Each person here represents 700 million people – 1/10th of the world’s population. This example uses rough approximates because not every number divides evenly. (Explain what each person represents – the poorest, the average, the wealthiest.) Now, consider where you think you would be in this lineup. If we picked 10 people from across the globe at random and you were one of them... which percentage do you think you would fall into? The majority of people think they’re about average. Now we’ll go down the line and see where we fall.

  1. 10 percent (the poorest): Have never received medical care, either from lack of access to a doctor or lack of money to pay for one. This 10% is malnourished. They are unable to meet their basic food needs and are hungry most of the time.
  2. 20%: Have inadequate housing. They live in shacks/tents/or no house at all. Live on less than $1 a day.
  3. 30%: No safe source of drinking water. No toilets. No sanitation.
  4. 40%: Live without electricity. No lights, no fridge, no freezer, no microwave, no TV, no electronic appliances or devices.
  5. 50%: Live in developing Third World countries, and survive on approximately $2 a day or less.
  6. 60%: You cannot be in this group if you have a cell phone, or a land line, or in fact if you have ever even made a phone call.
  7. 70%: You do not fit in this category if you have a bank account or savings of any kind.
  8. 80%: You are richer than everyone in this group if you have things in storage - whether that be a garage, an attic, a pantry, a closet. If you have an accumulation of stuff anywhere, you can’t be in this group.
  9. 90%: No one in this group has a car, or a computer. The yearly salary for the top end of this group is about $25 K. (A side note: The poverty threshold set by the US Government for a family of 5 living in the United States is $25,790!)
  10. 100%: Cars are owned by the top 8% in this group. Within this category, only the top 3% of the richest people on earth have access to the internet from their home.

NEXT SAY: Now to show how our world’s wealth is distributed among these groups, we are going to pretend that the entire world has only $100 dollars, which I have divided up among the envelopes. (Have each volunteer open their envelope and tell the audience how much money is in the envelope.) Starting with the poorest and working up: 2 nickels, 3 nickels, 4 nickels, 5 nickels, 6 nickels, $2, $3, $4, $5, $85!)

FINISH BY SAYING: The top 10% control 85% of the wealth. This group is 3,000 times wealthier than the people in the 10% group. And the top 1% is 13,000 times wealthier. You can see how disproportionate this setup is. If wealth were distributed evenly among all the people in the world, we would all make $850 /year. (Thanks to the volunteers.)