You may think your salary is paltry, but compared with most of the world’s population, you’re up there with Bill Gates.
A new website, the Global Rich List, starkly illustrates the worldwide distribution of wealth.
You simply plug in your annual income, and the site tells you where you rank among the world’s richest people.
For example, individuals in the United States who make less than $9,300 are officially poor, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s definition of poverty. But compared with the rest of the world, their income is in the top 12 percent.
An annual household income of $42,200 — the U.S. median in 2001 — is enough to land someone in the world’s richest 1 percent, according to the site.
“The idea is to really make people think about how rich they are compared to the rest of the world,” said Nicolas Roope, one of the site’s creators. “In the West, we tend to obsess about celebrities and the super-rich. This is a really simple way to turn that on its head.”
The site was created by Roope and several others from Poke, a London interactive media company.
Roope, 32, Poke’s creative director, said the site was launched to coincide with this week’s World Trade Organization summit in Cancun, Mexico, where, increasingly, poor countries are pitting themselves against rich. Key issues are cheap generic drugs for developing nations, an end to richer nations’ huge farm subsidies, reshuffling of trade tariffs between rich and poor countries, and special economic concessions for developing nations.
The site uses figures from the World Bank’s Development Research Group, which estimates that for the world’s 6 billion people, average annual income is $5,000.
Roope admitted the calculations don’t take into account disparities in the cost of living, taxation and other factors that contribute to income. “It’s simplified,” he said. “The goal is to make people think.”
Roope said he and his colleagues dreamed up the idea for the site last year. They shopped it around to several charities but none was interested without changing it significantly to fit their campaigns. Reluctant to adapt the idea, Poke launched the site on its own. It soon caught the eye of Care International, an international aid agency, which asked to be associated with it. Roope said it turned out to be “the perfect match.”
Since going live last Monday, the site has attracted 120,000 unique visitors. It has earned a few brief mentions in the press — the London Guardian, USA Today — but most traffic has come from word of mouth, weblogs and newsgroups.
With Poke’s keen interest in viral marketing, the team was delighted when the site topped the weblog popularity indices — Daypop, Blogdex, Popdex — late last week.
The site has received lots of positive e-mail, but also some hate mail. Most is from U.S. citizens who perceive an anti-American slant, Roope said.
However, despite the attention, the site has raised relatively little money for Care. So far, donations total about $1,700.
“It’s a very small amount per visitor,” said Roope. “I’m a bit surprised we didn’t get more.”
Roope said there was initially a problem with the site’s “donate” button, which wasn’t very prominent.
Denise Pritchard, spokeswoman for Care International, said the dearth of donations could be partly attributed to people’s wariness of electronic transactions. Nonetheless, she said the site is proving to be a very effective, low-cost way to promote the charity.
“It helps raise our profile,” she said. “We’re well-known in the field in the countries we work in, but we’re not as well-known in the West. It’s a crowded marketplace, and we send 91 percent of our funds overseas, so there’s not a lot to spend on marketing or promotion.”