The world is not an equal place, and some places are a lot more unequal than others.
A national political border can have incredible significance; an abstract line separating neighboring peoples, economies, even life expectancies. Using GDP per capita as an indicator (sourcing the most recent Central Intelligence Agency data), the wealth divide between these four pairs of countries is vast … even though they geographically sit side by side.
Romney was absolutely correct when noting that Israel’s GDP per capita is significantly higher than that in the Palestinian territories. But he was actually way off on the specifics: in suggesting that Israelis produced roughly twice as much as do the Palestinians, he vastly understated the disparity. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency estimated Israel’s per capita GDP at about 10 times (or 1000% more) that of the Palestinians.
In 2011 Israel had a per capita GDP of roughly $31,000, while in 2008 — the last year the CIA listed data for the Palestinians — the per capita GDP. of the West Bank and Gaza combined was about $3,000.
During his recent trip abroad, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney caused a political stir in Israel (among other places he went) when he said that “culture makes all the difference” in explaining the vast difference in GDP per capita between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors.
And it’s not hard to understand why Palestinians might have been a bit ticked off by the remark: it’s basically saying that you’d be more financially successful if you changed your lifestyle. Harder to grasp, though, is the economic concept that Romney used in his comparison.
GDP per capita: One of those terms journalists and politicos throw out there as though it was something that normal humans conversed about at the dinner table. But what does it actually mean? And how is it relevant – or not – in determining a country’s well-being?
Put simply, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is one (of many) ways to measure a nation’s income and level of productivity. The textbook definition will tell you: it’s the the market value of all goods and services that a country produces in a given period of time (generally a year).
In normal speak: it’s all the (legal) things that are produced and sold in a country, and all the wages and profits that are earned. Basically, an indicator of economic health and wellness.
GDP per capita, then, is the total GDP value divided by the number of people who live in that country.
So, for instance, let’s imagine your family’s house is a nation unto itself (work with me here): your dad’s a carpenter and makes, say, $50,000 a year selling his furniture. Your mom’s a lawyer and makes a salary of $70,000/year. You, however, are still in school and not working and thus, not making any income (freeloader!). So, the GDP of your household would be the sum of all those incomes: $120,000.
The GDP per capita, then, would be $120,000 divided by the number of people under your roof – the three of you. So … GDP per capita = $40,000.
GDP per capita is often used as a rough estimation of a nation’s general standard of living; the higher the GDP, the higher that standard. Of course, just looking at that figure alone can be pretty misleading, especially if there’s a lot wealth inequality within a particular country. Remember, that GDP per capita is just an average – it’s the income of a representative individual in a given country.
Take the United States, for instance: GDP per capita here is one of the highest in the world. And although the overall standard of living here is pretty high compared to a lot of other countries, there are also a lot of Americans who live in poverty.
Check out this explanatory animation on GDP per capita (I know, I know – it’s econ – but it’s kind of interesting!)
About two-thirds of Californians drink, bathe, brush their teeth, and flush their toilets with water that comes from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. That’s roughly 25 million people who get at least some portion of their hydration from one big triangular watering hole.
But ask most folks what the Delta is, and you’re guaranteed to get a lot of blank stares. One recent poll found that about 4 out 5 people in California had pretty much no idea about it.
It’s pretty easy to take for granted that water magically pours out of the tap when you turn your faucet on. But chances are, that H20 has gone through a pretty serious journey to reach you – and it’s probably worth knowing where it comes from, and how safe the supply is. Continue reading →
(Click on each state for population estimates of the undocumented immigrant community; source: Pew Hispanic Center)
Although the vast majority of immigrants in California came here legally, the state still has by far the largest undocumented immigrant population in the country, many of whom are young. In fact, it’s estimated that as many as 350,000 young undocumented immigrants living in California are eligible for deferred deportation and work authorization, as a result of the Obama administration’s recent policy shift, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Continue reading →
The year was 1996, and a political novice named Barack Obama was running for Illinois State Senate – his first bid for public office. Responding to a questionnaire from Outlines, a gay newspaper in Chicago, Obama wrote: “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”
It took him till now to return to that position.
Just two years later, Obama was deeply steeped in the world of politics. In his re-election bid for state senate, the same newspaper asked the same question. Obama’s position had already shifted, though. In response, he said he was now “undecided.”
Since then, Obama has held fast in his support for civil unions and equal rights for gays and lesbians, but until this week, he never firmly tied the knot in support of same-sex marriage. Scroll through the timeline, and view the clips, to see Obama long “evolving” feelings on this issue.
Natural-Bridges State Beach, near Santa Cruz (credit: Ca. Dept. of Parks and Recreation)
“These state parks are our cathedrals. This is what defines us as Californians to the rest of the world. But they are not cheap to run. And so I think Californians need to decide whether it’s worth it to them to save these parks … I think it begs a much deeper question of what we value as Californians.”
– Ruth Coleman, California state parks director
INCLUDES: INTERACTIVE MAPS AND KQED MULTIMEDIA LINKS
Click on the photo to explore KQED's radio and interactive series on California's parks.
California has a lot of state parks. 278 to be exact – more than any other state in the U.S. Some are tiny specks on the map – mini historic sites that you may have driven by without even noticing. Others are vast swaths of land – thousands of preserved acres of old growth forest, sweeping vistas, pristine beaches. Size and stature aside, each has it’s own significance, and the majority were spearheaded as a result of citizen-led campaigns to make the land public and accessible to anyone who wanted to visit. Continue reading →