83.2% of people like to think of themselves as at least a little above average. I must admit that, like 74% of statistics, that one was made up on the spot but I suspect that it isn’t entirely off the mark. Like probability, the concept of average seems to be one that many people have a problem conceptualising in their lives but it is an important one.
In the UK, poverty is defined as an income 60% or less of the average, which works out at a threshold of around £14K per annum. That is a long way from absolute poverty (internationally regarded as living on $1.25 a day or less) but means that someone in a full-time, minimum wage job is still under the official poverty line. At the current adult rate of £6.50 an hour, you would still be in relative poverty even working a 40 hour week and that is assuming such a job would offer social protections such sick pay.
That is one of the drivers of the Living Wage campaign. At a current rate of £7.85 it means that the worker can rise above the poverty threshold even working a few less hours per week (say 37.5). Of course, the more people you lift from below that baseline, the higher the average becomes, while income is not a particularly accurate marker of either expenses or purchasing choices. I think the campaign is a good one though there is also the approach at the other end of the scale – you can make it easier for people at the bottom end to near an average income not only by raising what you pay them but also by requiring those at the top to pay higher taxes.
I wonder if anyone has figured out poverty levels calculated on net income… no, wait, a quick touch of Googling and it turns out that is how they are calculated (see poverty.ac.uk) and also reveals a suggestion that even people working for the government on poverty struggle with understanding averages. While it is a delight to excel, I think that income is an area where we would all benefit from being a little more average.