The typical American family spends half its income on housing and transportation. The typical Egyptian family spends half its income on food.
This week, we looked at how health care, education, and cell phone bills have eaten into American budgets since the recession. But let's take the global view. What do family budgets look like in Egypt? Or Indonesia? Or China? The Credit Suisse Emerging Consumer Survey asks thousands of respondents across eight developing countries -- the three above plus India, Russia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey -- to say how they spend money on categories like cars, food, and phones. Those eight graphs, with key stats from the report, are below. Some light analysis for the road comes at the bottom.
GDP per capita: $1,382
Key stat from the Credit Suisse report: "70% of Indians say they have no computers in the home. Only 19% of respondents register having access to the internet."
Egypt GDP per capita: $2,892
Key stat: "There is [an] ongoing red flag raised by exposure to food with its near 50% claim on the household income of Egyptian consumers. Ironically, plans to cut government spending on food subsidies to strengthen state finances, could in itself increase inflation and undermine consumer sentiment."
Indonesia GDP per capita: $3,456
Key stat: "The risk that always exists for the Indonesian consumer is the sensitivity of food prices. Food consumes a large proportion of the household budget. Upward pressure on prices would threaten to crowd out other discretionary spending."
China GDP per capita: $4,833
Key stat: "The two categories that stand out are healthcare and education. The only country with comparable momentum in healthcare spending is Saudi Arabia. Only Saudi and India had stronger readings on extra educational spending ... At nearly 30% of monthly income, [China's savings] is the highest in the survey."
Turkey GDP per capita: $11,054
Key stat: "Expenditure in [housing] (at an estimated 24%) is the highest of any country in the survey. This looks to be more out of necessity than desire. The proportion of people registered as renting their property is among the highest in the survey. Turkish economic growth over the past decade, and the ensuing urbanization, has led to high inflation in the housing sector."
Brazil GDP per capita: $12,423
Key stat: "The Brazilian consumer continues to stand out as the most optimistic across our survey. Barely 7% of household income is registered as saved and over a half of respondents suggest they have no extra cash for savings. Given the strength of projected real income growth, this is extraordinary. It is more typical of the countries where the consumer is being seriously squeezed than one where finances seem robust."
Russia GDP per capita: $13,543
Key stat: "Despite the structural support there has been for the Russian economy in recent years from commodity prices, there has not been a notable trickle down to the average consumer. Optimism remains the lowest of the BRICs. The inequality of income suggests that growth opportunities are played mainly at the high-income end in Russia."
Saudi Arabia GDP per capita: $21,685
Key stat: "While inflation has been a negative factor in our emerging economies sur- veyed, including Saudi Arabia, there is a stabilizing effect from government pol- icy. Robust oil revenues (a driver of infla- tion for others) have provided govern- ment spending with the firepower to support public sector incomes and boost spending more generally. We have seen a government pledge to spend USD 130 billion on housing and job creation this year."
Two big ideas for the road: Houses and food. Everybody
needs somewhere to live and something to eat. But you can learn a lot
about a country by looking at housing and food spending. Here's how the
U.S., where middle-class families spend about a third of their income on
housing, compare to the developing economies in this survey.
And here's the story with food.
don't want to push this point too far, because these sort of surveys
have obvious limitations. Tremendous income inequality in developing
countries with hundreds of millions of people makes it impossible to
tell the story of the frothy middle class *in one graph.* But the bigger
picture is clear and uncontroversial. When families earn more income,
they can afford to eat more and buy more clothes, but the real shift is
from those essentials to bigger better houses, education, and health
The number of American teens who excel at advanced math has surged. Why?
On a sultry evening last July, a tall, soft-spoken 17-year-old named David Stoner and nearly 600 other math whizzes from all over the world sat huddled in small groups around wicker bistro tables, talking in low voices and obsessively refreshing the browsers on their laptops. The air in the cavernous lobby of the Lotus Hotel Pang Suan Kaew in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was humid, recalls Stoner, whose light South Carolina accent warms his carefully chosen words. The tension in the room made it seem especially heavy, like the atmosphere at a high-stakes poker tournament.
Stoner and five teammates were representing the United States in the 56th International Mathematical Olympiad. They figured they’d done pretty well over the two days of competition. God knows, they’d trained hard. Stoner, like his teammates, had endured a grueling regime for more than a year—practicing tricky problems over breakfast before school and taking on more problems late into the evening after he completed the homework for his college-level math classes. Sometimes, he sketched out proofs on the large dry-erase board his dad had installed in his bedroom. Most nights, he put himself to sleep reading books like New Problems in Euclidean Geometry and An Introduction to Diophantine Equations.
This wasn’t terribly surprising. When Streep was asked, last year, in the course of promoting her extremely feminist film Suffragette, whether she is herself a feminist, the actor replied that, no, she isn’t. Instead: “I am a humanist,” she said. “I am for nice, easy balance.”
Women in their 20s are told they're too young to settle down. Then, seemingly overnight, they start hearing they're spinsters. What gives?
Women in their 20s are told they're too young to settle down. Then, seemingly overnight, they start hearing they're spinsters. What gives?
Heterosexual women today, in certain milieus, find themselves placed into one of two categories: too young to settle down, and too old to find a man. There is a window of opportunity to get married, but it is ephemeral almost to the point of non-existence. It falls at a different age according to region, or the idiosyncratic biases of one's circle, but hovers around 27. "Too young" refers not to teen marriage, but to any commitment entered into by a grown woman deemed still a child by those around her.
Here's how it works: A young woman hears from friends and family that she needs to focus on her career or education, not some guy. She is warned of certain dangers: unsolicited male attention; unintended pregnancy, as if intended pregnancy were also a thing; and the desire hardwired into all straight men to turn their girlfriends into 1950s housewives. To entertain the possibility of it being difficult to find a husband, to even utter the expression "find a husband," is to regress to another era. And this advice is incredibly appealing, a rejection of the quaint notion that female heterosexuality is the desire not for men, but for a white picket fence.
Today’s empires are born on the web, and exert tremendous power in the material world.
Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t had the best week.
First, Facebook’s Free Basics platform was effectively banned in India. Then, a high-profile member of Facebook’s board of directors, the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, sounded off about the decision to his nearly half-a-million Twitter followers with a stunning comment.
“Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades,” Andreessen wrote. “Why stop now?”
After that, the Internet went nuts.
Andreessen deleted his tweet, apologized, and underscored that he is “100 percent opposed to colonialism” and “100 percent in favor of independence and freedom.” Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, followed up with his own Facebook post to say Andreessen’s comment was “deeply upsetting” to him, and not representative of the way he thinks “at all.”
And why stopping it requires that governments get out of the way
As it stands, the international coalition is far from winning the information war against the Islamic State. Its air strikes may be squeezing the group in Iraq and Syria and killing many of its leaders, but that has not halted the self-proclaimed caliphate’s ideological momentum. Indeed, at the end of 2015, it was estimated that the number of foreigners travelling to join militant groups in Iraq and Syria—predominantly the Islamic State—had more than doubled in the course of just 18 months. What’s more, while these figures may be striking, sheer numbers are less important than intent when it comes to the organization’s actual threat to the world. As we have already seen, it takes a very small number of people to unleash great terror, whether in Iraq, Syria, or elsewhere.
How those three little words sound around the world
I love saying “I love you.” I’ll say “love ya” to my parents when I’m about to get off the phone with them, and “love you!!” to my wife as she’s heading out the door for work (“love you???” on Gchat means I’ve gotten myself into trouble with her and I’m searching for a way out). I tell my son I love him, and he doesn’t even get it—he’s an infant. I’ve been known to proclaim that I love sushi and football and Benjamin Franklin (I mean, how could you not love Ben?).
Many people in this world would find my behavior rather strange. That’s because Americans are exceptionally promiscuous when it comes to professing their love. In the United States, “I love you” is at once exalted and devalued. It can mean everything ... or nothing at all. This is not universally the case.
Einstein’s gravitational waves rest on a genuinely radical idea.
After decades of anticipation, we have directly detected gravitational waves—ripples in spacetime traveling at the speed of light through the universe. Scientists at LIGO (the Laser Interferometic Gravitational-wave Observatory) have announced that they have measured waves coming from the inspiral of two massive black holes, providing a spectacular confirmation of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, whose hundredth anniversary was celebrated just last year.
Finding gravitational waves indicates that Einstein was (once again) right, and opens a new window onto energetic events occurring around the universe. But there’s a deeper lesson, as well: a reminder of the central importance of locality, an idea that underlies much of modern physics.
The drug modafinil was recently found to enhance cognition in healthy people. Should you take it to get a raise?
If you could take a pill that will make you better at your job, with few or no negative consequences, would you do it?
In a meta-analysis recently published in European Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers from the University of Oxford and Harvard Medical School concluded that a drug called modafinil, which is typically used to treat sleep disorders, is a cognitive enhancer. Essentially, it can help normal people think better.
Out of all cognitive processes, modafinil was found to improve decision-making and planning the most in the 24 studies the authors reviewed. Some of the studies also showed gains in flexible thinking, combining information, or coping with novelty. The drug didn’t seem to influence creativity either way.
Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.
And if thy brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing today.
— Deuteronomy 15: 12–15
Besides the crime which consists in violating the law, and varying from the right rule of reason, whereby a man so far becomes degenerate, and declares himself to quit the principles of human nature, and to be a noxious creature, there is commonly injury done to some person or other, and some other man receives damage by his transgression: in which case he who hath received any damage, has, besides the right of punishment common to him with other men, a particular right to seek reparation.
Across China, where new developments are keeping pace with the rapidly growing economy, reports continue to surface so-called "nail houses."
Across China, where new developments are keeping pace with the rapidly growing economy, reports continue to surface of so-called "nail houses." These properties, standing alone amid the ruins of other buildings, belong to owners who have stood their ground and resisted demolition. Defiant property owners say the compensation being offered is too low. Some of them have remained in their homes for years as their court cases drag on and new construction continues all around them. A few homeowners have won their fights, but most have lost. Meanwhile, these nail houses have become powerful symbols of resistance against the world's fastest-growing major economy.