The World Bank estimates that the average person’s share of the world’s income was $4,600 in 1994, about $45 higher than the year before and the first increase after three years’ decline.
The worldwide figure embraces every living person from computer tycoon Bill Gates, whose estimated net worth was $13 billion, to a peasant family’s newborn in Ethiopia, where incomes averaged $130 in 1994.
The estimate appears in “The World Bank Atlas - 1996,” made public Saturday, a booklet of figures and financial computations that gives an overview of the state of the world in terms of dollars.
Bank experts compute average incomes by totaling the value of everything produced in 159 countries, then dividing each country’s total by the country’s population. They call the result “gross national production per capita,” which is generally used as the measure of average income. The world income figure combines the 159 results.
The figure does not represent actual incomes in most cases. Instead, the figure gives economists a guidepost to measure a country’s progress or lack of it.
Figures in the new list range from the $130 for the Ethiopian to the $39,850 for the affluent Luxembourger. The average for that little country is skewed by high incomes of companies registered there to take advantage of Luxembourg’s liberal tax laws. Luxembourg has only about 400,000 residents, and most stock in the tax-sheltered companies is owned elsewhere.
Absentee owners of bank accounts figure in the number for Switzerland, which has an average income of $37,180. The average Japanese follows with $34,630. Denmark’s $28,110 and Norway’s $26,480 put the average U.S. resident in sixth place, at $25,860. Rounding out the top 10 were Germany, $25,580; Austria, $24,950; Iceland, $24,950; and Sweden, $23,630.