Who wants to be a billionaire? - How do we measure a nation's wealth?
This lesson introduces students to the idea that there is more than one way of measuring average levels of wealth; and that a wealthy nation can still have poor citizens (especially when billionaires skew the statistics). Student will recognise that wealth exists at different scales (people, regions and nations). Students will learn about some of the different indicators of wealth that exist and appreciate that the ranking of data is an important geographical enquiry skill as well as identify problems associated with data collection.
- When is 'average' not the same as 'typical'?
- What is PPP? (see below)
- Can wealth data be trusted?
When is 'average' not the same as 'typical'?
Taking the mean ‘average’ of wealth in a group of people or population can sometimes be misleading as the few very wealthy people (like billionaires) can skew averages upwards despite the ‘typical’ level of wealth of the population being very low.
What is PPP?
Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). This is a comparative measure of the cost of goods in different countries. It is often applied to a ‘basket of goods’. The basket of goods contains a group of basic goods and services that are needed, and the comparison is often made between the numbers of hours needed to work to make enough income to buy this ‘basket of goods’ in different countries. It is arguable more useful when comparing differences in wealth between nations because PPP takes into account the relative cost of living and the inflation rates of the countries, rather then just exchange rates which may distort the real differences in income. If we look at a list (one) average income and (two) average PPP data for ten countries they do not show a perfect match because prices of goods differ between nations, as well as incomes.
Can wealth data be trusted?
When looking at these sorts of data with students it important to discuss reasons why the data may not be fully trustworthy. It may be inaccurate, out-of-date, currencies fluctuate for conversion, they may ignore informal/illegal/subsistence wealth, or the issue of averaging (which was introduced by the starter activity). Some may think to extend this idea to recognise that there are also regional or city-wide differences in wealth levels – so, once again, mathematical averages are seen to be not especially 'trustworthy'.
Are you Mr or Ms ‘Average’? Are you a ‘typical’ teenager? When is 'average' not the same as 'typical'?
If you added up the height of everyone in your class and then divided it by the number of students in your class you would know the average height of students in your class.
If the whole class stood in a line - What would be the typical height of students in your class?
Would they be the same?
You will receive Monopoly money from your teacher.
Ask around, who got all the money, who is not?
[Hint: one of you is a billionaire, there are a few millionaires and the rest of you are paupers].
What is the average level of classroom wealth?
What is the most typical level of classroom wealth?
Why are the two answers not the same?
Let us spend some of our money and go shopping around the world.
But how much do things cost in other countries?
Do the how much is that activity as a class. You will see items for sale in a number of different countries. Guess how much they are before seeing the answer.
Look at the GDP vs PPP for ten countries.
In groups rank the two lists.
Can you explain why they are not the same?
In your groups you have a target to come up with of three reasons why the data may not be fully trustworthy.
Do you think there also regional or city-wide differences in wealth levels? Are mathematical averages 'trustworthy'?
It is time now to live the billionaire lifestyle with a jet-set holiday.
Your American billionaire uncle has given you £500 spending money (very generous) for a holiday to a European destination of your choice and somewhere in Asia (not Japan, you went there last year).
Being a billionaire he has already paid for your travel and accommodation.
Use the internet to work out how long £500 would last you in your two chosen countries and find out where to look for trustworthy data to help you at the planning stage of your holiday.
Think about currency conversion, how much you will need to spend per day and the cost of things you need for daily life in your countries.
A list of Big Mac prices in different countries is available for you to get an idea of the cost of living in various countries.