Would the world be a better place if the wealthiest gave their fortunes away to the bottom billion? We tried to answer the question by creating the Robin Hood Index.
We took a spattering of 42 countries with radically different demographics and economies, then compared the wealthiest individuals to the percentage of the populations living in poverty. By the way, only in Chile, the Netherlands, France and Australia is the richest person a woman.
The index shows how the net worth of each country's wealthiest person compares to the livelihood of his fellow countrymen by calculating the lump sum in dollars each person living in poverty would get if the assets of the richest citizen were liquidated and redistributed. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index and the CIA World Factbook were our reference points.
The net worth of Bill Gates would turn into a one-off payment of $1,736 if distributed to the neediest 15 percent of Americans.
India's large population means Mukesh Ambani's $19.2 billion net worth amounts to the smallest payout to the poor of any other country analyzed. His net worth is 13.6 million times more than the gross domestic product of his fellow Indians. Still, with 30 percent of the country destitute, his riches would result in each poor person getting $59, enough for 118 basic meals priced at 35 rupees (50 cents) and consisting of rice, dal, two vegetables, one pickle and three chapatis.
Cyprus and Sweden are where the poor stand to gain the most, $45,987 and $33,149 respectively, yet they are also exceptional. They have small populations — the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean has 1.1 million people — and fairly high living standards — Sweden ranks among the highest when it comes to GDP per capita.
Quantifying the boost from each payout is hard because each dollar will buy you something different in local currency terms. The poverty line also is different from nation to nation. Nevertheless, a modern-day Robin Hood it seems would do little to improve the lives of those in need.