# x percent of people own y percent of the wealth

It is very common in infographics such as the following:

to make a point about wealth inequality by showing a disproportionate amount of money owned by the richest people.

I am slightly skeptical that this is a good measurement of a skewed wealth distribution. In particular, the "what they would like it to be" almost looks paradoxical -- how can the third 20% own the same amount of wealth as the second 20% when by definition the second group earns more income?

I'm particularly curious what such a distribution with a stereotypically "utopian" income distribution, such a normal distribution with identical mean, median, and mode. How about a uniform distribution, with 1 person earning \$1000, 1 person earning \$2000, up to 1 person earning \$10000?

Also, would a distribution graph with wealth on the horizontal axis and percentage of people on the vertical axis give a better picture of income skew?

Sorry if this question belongs more on Math StackExchange.

Source here.

• I'm not understanding what you are skeptical of here. The first chart is based on economic data. The second and third abre based on survey results. They aren't expected to be economically correct. Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 13:46
• @EricDong, please fix the graphs too, the graphs display wealth, not income. Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 14:01
• @EricDong It's not an issue whether an economist would consider the top graph problematic. The article shows the differences between what people think it should be (and they may be wrong about whether that is a good thing or not) and what it is. This site isn't for deciding if infographs make a good point or not, it's for deciding if they are true or not. Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 14:02
• @EricDong You fixed your question the wrong way. You ask about income distribution, but the source is talking about wealth distribution. Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 14:05
• What is the question? Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 14:46

There is some confusion about the question, so I'll try to answer

I am slightly skeptical that this is a good measurement of a skewed wealth distribution. In particular, the "what they would like it to be" almost looks paradoxical -- how can the third 20% own the same amount of wealth as the second 20% when by definition the second group earns more income?

Or in other words, Are wealth distribution graphs a good measure for wealth distribution inequality?

Yes, they are wealth distribution graphs, show exactly what you want to look at when you talk about wealth distribution. If you want to know how much wealth does the X percent have, look at the graph. The graph also shows the "ideal" wealth distribution, which is taken from a peer reviewed article:

http://pps.sagepub.com/content/6/1/9.short

The graphs doesn't show that the bottom and second bottom 20% percentiles have the same amount of wealth, but very close amounts of wealth, where the second bottom has slightly more the the bottom.

Beware, Here starts the ranty part of the answer.

With all due respect to wealth inequality, it doesn't give a good picture of a person's status, because it doesn't translate the wealth into commodities or services. People don't need money to live, they need food, shelter, education, medical care, safety and so on. Wealth inequality however doesn't tell us if the people in the bottom have those things or not. For example, Uganda's wealth is more evenly distributed that the USA's, but where are the people of the lowest percentiles better off, in Uganda or the USA?

You can see in the Wikipedia article on income inequality (which is sourced well, and organizes everything in a nice table with several different criterion to choose from) that countries like Ukraine, Belarus, Albania and Afghanistan all have more equal wealth distribution than the USA. The question that should be asked is where are people better off, not where are people more equal.

Wealth distribution doesn't tell us if the poorest have food, shelter, medical care etc. and can't really tell us anything about the quality of life of the people.

In other words, if the poorest people have food, housing, education medical care and opportunities in life, why should anyone care the the richest people are pooping in golden toilets?

• Wealth distribution may not be able to tell that but it is an indicator. Just like your check engine light. And dismissing an indicator because it doesnt show the entire picture is exactly the type of tactic employed to block any changes to the Status Quo. Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 15:11
• Also please compare the US with countries on the same economical level. Like for an example all of the scandinavian countries. Still think people prefer the US? As it stands with the second part i cannot upvote this answer. Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 15:13
• @Strafan, I'm not a US citizen, more over, I believe that the poor in the USA don't have access to medical care, housing and sometimes even food. And you are right that the USA is forth last of the OECD countries, with only Chile, Mexico, and Turkey below it. However, I still don't believe that it's a good factor for the state of the people. Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 15:43