If Bill Gates gave away his entire fortune to America’s poor, what would be the effect? That’s the question Bloomberg’s Robin Hood Index set out to answer (sort of).
Using publicly available data, the index took the wealthiest individuals from various countries and divided their fortunes by the number of their fellow citizens living in poverty. The results show how much each poor person of a specific country would get if their wealthiest fellow citizen went insane (or fell victim to a violent communist insurgency).
As you can see, Bill Gates fortune would equal $1,736 for each of the poorest 15 percent of Americans. That’s not exactly a life-changing sum.
The same scenario plays out in poorer countries such as India, which has a poverty rate of 30 percent. Mukesh Ambani’s $19.2 billion would garner each poor person only $59. Even though money goes a lot farther in India than it does in most First World countries, it’s still not enough to lift anyone out of poverty.
Ironically, smaller, wealthier countries such as Sweden (which has the highest GDP per capita on the list) would see the greatest benefit. Every Swede living below the poverty line would receive $33,149 if the country’s richest citizen gave his money away. That’s because Sweden has relatively few poor people to begin with. The same is true for poor people living in Cyprus, who would end up getting $45,987.
So, what was Bloomberg’s conclusion?
“A modern-day Robin Hood… would do little to improve the lives of those in need,” wrote Bloomberg’s Wei Lu.
Granted, under the terms of this index, I suppose that’s true. But even the dirtiest of dirty communists probably wouldn’t recommend taking that money and simply giving it away as a direct cash payout. So while the data is interesting, I’m not sure it really proves much besides the fact that no one individual is going to solve the world’s problems, even if that individual is worth billions (with the possible exception of Bruce Wayne).