Comparisons to the United States

Net Wealth

U.S. Median Net Wealth

The U.S. Census estimated that the median American household in 2013 had $80,039 in net wealth and the median married-couple household had net wealth of $167,704. The Federal Reserve Bank’s Survey of Consumer Finances (p. 13) estimated that the median American family in 2016 had net worth of $97,300 and the median homeowner family had net worth of $231,400. Among homeowners, the median value of their primary residences (p.18) was $185,000. Website DQYDJ’s Net Worth Percentile Calculator for the United States estimates that an American household with $205,000 in net wealth in 2016 (including its primary residence equity) was at the 63.5th percentile (net wealth higher than 63.5% of all households).

Overall, the United States has a very skewed wealth distribution. Approximately 16.6 million U.S. households (14% of the total) have negative net worth — their debts in the form of car loans, credit card loans, student loans, mortgages, home equity loans, etc. exceed their bank account and cash holdings. At the other end of the spectrum, about 14.8 million households (12%) have net worth exceeding $1 million, and 585 households have net worth of $1 billion or more. Within this overall imbalance, people of color are concentrated at the lower end of the scale. For example, in 2016, the Federal Reserve Bank’s Survey of Consumer Finances found the median net worth of white households ($171,000) was roughly ten times that of black households ($17,000) and roughly eight times that of Hispanic households ($20,700). See the Additional Resources page for more information.


U.S. Median Earnings

The U.S. Census estimated that the median household in the United States in 2016 had annual earnings (from wages and self-employment) (Table 1) of $59,039. They estimated the median married-couple household had annual earnings of $87,057. The Federal Reserve Bank (p. 4) estimated that the median American family in 2016 had income of $52,700 and the median homeowner family had income of $71,200. Website DQYDJ’s Income Percentile Calculator for 2017 US Data estimates that an American household with $60,000 in net income in 2017 was at the 71.1th percentile.

Overall, the United States also has a very skewed income distribution. See the Additional Resources page for more information.


Average U.S. Routine Expenses

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Consumer Expenditure Survey found that in 2016 the average household, and the average household in which the occupants owned their own houses, spent the following amounts:

Average Annual Expenditures for Consumer Units (Households) in 2016
in the United States (excluding costs not found on the Chancy Islands: mortgages, rent,
Social Security, pensions, and personal insurance)
All 129 Million
Only (81 Million)
Food at home $4,049 $4,529
Food away from home $3,154 $3,596
Alcoholic beverages $484 $551
Owned dwelling costs (minus Mortgage interest) $3,406 $5,430
Other lodging (travel, vacation) $798 $1,097
Utilities, telephone $3,884 $4,633
Household furnishings and appliances $1,829 $2,266
Household operations plus Housekeeping supplies $2,044 $2,538
Clothes $1,803 $1,934
Vehicle purchases (net outlay) $3,634 $4,366
Gasoline and motor oil $1,909 $2,199
Other vehicle expenses $2,884 $3,416
Public and other transportation $623 $724
Healthcare $4,612 $5,867
Entertainment $2,913 $3,610
Education $1,329 $1,452
Cash contributions (to church, non-profits, etc.) $2,081 $2,694
Miscellaneous $2,121 $2,473
Federal income taxes $8,367 $11,548
State and local income taxes $2,046 $2,631
Other taxes $75 $108
Total $54,045 $67,662

Note that this table does not include the cost of insurance, pensions, or Social Security since these do not exist on the Chancy Islands.

Unexpected Expenses

Some U.S. Unexpected Expenses

Here are three examples of large, unexpected expenses in the United States:

Roof Replacement: Home Advisor estimates a typical asphalt roof replacement costs $1,700 to $8,400 plus $510 to $1,100 to remove the old roof.

Vehicle Crashes: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that in 2010 there were 13.6 million motor vehicle crashes in the United States which resulted in 32,999 people killed, 3.9 million people injured, and 24 million vehicles damaged. The NHTSA estimated (p. 11) these crashes cost $1.1 billion for emergency services (EMS), $23.4 billion for medical costs, and $76.1 billion for property damage (as well as legal, insurance administration, congestion, and workplace costs that we ignore here) — a total of $100.5 billion. Adjusting for inflation to 2018, the total cost is $115.2 billion or about $352 for each of the 328.3 million people in the U.S. in mid-2018 or $704 for a household of two adults.

Job-Related Injuries: It is estimated that job-related injuries in 2007 numbered about 8.6 million and cost $192 billion. Job-related illnesses numbered about 460,000 and cost $58 billion. Adjusted for inflation to 2018, the total cost of both job-related injuries and illnesses would be about $300 billion ($918 per person in the U.S. or $1,836 for a household of two).

[Note that there is some overlap between the vehicle crash data and job-related injuries.]

Catastrophic Losses

Some U.S. Catastrophic Losses

Severe Weather: In 2017, the United States experienced an historic year of weather and climate disasters with sixteen billion-dollar disasters, including three tropical hurricanes, eight severe storms and tornadoes, two inland floods, a crop freeze, widespread drought, and multiple wildfires. The total cost of these large disasters was $306 billion.

Most years are not quite so calamitous. Still, from 1980 to 2018, there were 241 weather diasasters where the overall damage costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. The total cost of these billion-dollar diasters was $1,670.5 billion (adjusted for inflation) or $42.83 billion per year over those 39 years. This works out to about $130 per person in the U.S. per year (or $260 per 2-adult household).

These billion-dollar disasters also resulted in 13,188 deaths or 338 deaths/year.

Chronic Diseases: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) compiled the annual direct medical costs in the United States. For just these four chronic diseases (which affect middle-aged working people) the direct cost was:

Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke       $199.2 billion in 2013–2014
Cancer $157 billion in 2010
Diabetes $237 billion in 2017
Arthritis $139.8 billion in 2013

The total cost of these four illnesses, adjusted for inflation to 2018, is roughly $786 billion annually or about $2,393 per person in the United States or $4,786 for two people.

Deaths: A death from disease or injury is a catastrophic loss which likely results in greatly increased costs and severe income loss to a household. The National Center for Health Statistics, Center for Disease Control reports that among Americans ages 25–44 in 2016 there were 135,408 deaths from all causes.

Leading causes of death and numbers of deaths, by age: United States 2016 (Table 20)
Age: 25–44 Years (population: 85,147,000)
Deaths Death Rate
per 100,000
Unintentional injuries 44,959 52.80
Malignant neoplasms (cancer) 14,694 17.26
Suicide 14396 16.91
Diseases of heart 13,922 16.35
Homicide 8,745 10.27
Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis 3,776 4.43
Diabetes mellitus 2,841 3.34
Cerebrovascular diseases (strokes, etc.) 2,426 2.85
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease 1,517 1.78
Influenza and pneumonia 1,346 1.58
All other 26786 31.46
Total 135,408 159.03
Total excluding suicide and homocide 112,267 131.85

The equivalent rate for accidental deaths (excluding suicide and homicide) for 1,000 people (or for 500 two-person households) is 1.31 deaths/year.

If the death of a Chancy Islander from disease or injury cut that person’s adult life in half (on average), then half their lifetime earnings would be lost. Chancy Islanders earn $30,000/year and half a life might be considered 25 years, so lifetime earnings lost would be $750,000. Since these deaths occur every year, we can consider this cost the annual cost of death from disease or injury for the island. For an average household, the annual cost would be $750,000 / 500 households x 1.31 deaths per 500 households / year = $1,965 per two-person household.

Alternatively, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) values a life, for statistical purposes, at $7.4 million in 2006 dollars. Adjusting for inflation to 2018, this is $9.2 million. Multiplied times 1.31 deaths/500 two-person households/year = $24,000 per two-person household each year.