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The Gini Coefficient
The Gini Coefficient shows the disparity between income distribution in a country. The lower the number (i.e. the closer the number to zero), the more EQUITABLY distributed the total wealth of the country is amongst the population.
The United States has Gini Coefficient of 45
However, Nigeria has a Gini Coefficient of only 43.
This means that wealth is more equitably distributed amongst the population in Nigeria than it is in the United States (note: I know that economic figures change every day and this could have fluctuated by the time I hit 'Publish Post'), so why then are my business classmates so fond of making mind boggling statements like "The economic gap in Nigeria between the rich and the poor is so vast!" or " A great impassable chasm exists between the haves and the have-nots in Nigeria"
This is obviously a crock of bullshit.
I'm not saying that everyone in Nigeria is on the same economic level. Of course not, but what I AM saying is that the economic divide(s) in Nigeria are no greater than those that exist in the United States. Yet I don't see anybody desperately trying to save the United States or looking upon it as a country with condescension and pity.
The United States and Nigeria are very very similar in many aspects. They are not that different. I hate it when people act as if life in Nigeria is so different from life anywhere else in the world. We have the same economic problems and we'll fucking deal with them, but anybody trying to make out that Nigeria's disparity is sooooooooooooooo enormous is freaking joking.
Personally I think Nigerians ENJOY pretending that there is no middle class in Nigeria and that everyone neatly fits into either Stinking Rich or Dirt Poor.
I'm not saying that incomes in the US are comparable to incomes in Nigeria. What I am saying is that the distribution of income in Nigeria (whatever it may be) is almost the same as the distribution of income in the United States. This does not mean that Nigerians are earning the same salary that Americans are. It just means that the proportion or rich people in America compared to the proportion of poor people in America (according to what America calls rich and poor) is the same as the proportion of rich people to poor people in Nigeria.
Also, again, it is untrue that MAJORITY of Nigerians are poor. I am not saying this because all my friends are comfortable and I have never seen poverty. I am saying this because the only part of Nigeria in which majority of the people are poor is in the North where there is a 70% poverty rate. The poverty rates for the South East is only 23% while the poverty rate of the South West is 25%. On top of that, I think a lot of people are taking a very narrow definition of middle class here.
My personal definition of middle class and how I apply it to this situation is this:
I divide the population of Nigeria into the following groups:
Top Out of Sight
(the super ultimate mega rich. So rich that you can't even see them - in other words - Silent Billionaires - tend to be entrepreneurs or heirs and heiresses to inherited family fortunes e.g. the children of Dangote, Adenuga, Fernandez and co.)
(the super rich but still very visible to society - Millionaires in the 50 -100 millions and above and maybe a billionaire or two e.g. Dangote, Adenuga, Fernandez and co *note, these are the parents. Their children are classed ABOVE them because while they (the parents) had to work for majority of the wealth, their children were born into luxury and as such it is their natural habitat while their parents are the outsiders/foreigners to wealth*). Usually entrepreneurs, top bankers, top doctors, lawyers, engineers, famous/celebrated authors, artists, etc.
Upper Middle Class
Basically people who own their own houses, own their own cars, can afford to send their children to excellent - but not elite/ultimate exclusive - schools, can go on holiday numerous times a year to any country if they so choose - although they might not, are very well educated, anywhere from 10 million to 50 - 80 million and above. Typically the type to use something like forex signals to boost their wealth. Usually doctors, lawyers, etc, near top managers, minor executives, or oil company employees and people in other areas
Lower Middle Class
People who own at least one house and can afford to live exceedingly comfortably, you'll likely be within the Lower Middle Class to Upper if you might have money tied up in your home. They can afford extravagances without discomfort occasionally but certainly not as frequently as the upper middle class can. If they rent because it is preferable they have no problem at all paying their rent and irrespective of whether or not they ACTUALLY do this in REAL LIFE, they have the CAPABILITY to pay for at least 90% of all their expenses on time and with minimum discomfort. They probably go on holiday once a year but don't embark on foreign travel on a whim, their children probably attend pretty good private schools but generally not the super exclusive schools that provide luxury amenities (e.g. laundry service) for their students. Usually white collar workers in banks, oil companies, telecomms companies, and so on. Children generally attend good but less prestigious/desirable schools.
People who generally rent with no ownership whatsoever anywhere (not even a house in villa - family houses don't count). Generally work less lucrative jobs than lower middle class. May or may not own cars but most certainly do not own houses. Can afford a few luxuries with minor to moderate discomfort/inconvenience. Children generally do not attend the most desirable schools.
In Nigeria teachers often fall into this category. Especially teachers in Federal Government schools. I know of course that there are lots of rich teachers out there and that's cool, but I'm just saying. Can only afford foreign travel once in a blue moon and then only with major preparation and considerable discomfort.
Do not own houses. May rent but generally rent either low income housing or rent in groups (face me I face you or many people sharing one room). May not have long term permanent employment, most work as housemaids, drivers, maiguardis, and other domestic help or provide services in markets, motor parks, and so on in other areas of the informal economy. Many of these people may even take the money that they do have and decide to look at how commodity trading and investing in these areas may help them to make a profit - especially if you make an accurate prediction. For individuals in the lower class, every bit of money helps, and many will be willing to do anything to get more, even if it means taking a gamble. But with the right online broker, you could be more likely to experience success. Children generally attend sub-standard schooling such as Federal grammar schools. May own cars but in much fewer numbers than Working class.
Most certainly do not own houses nor cars. Most likely unemployed or engaged in temporary employment. Beggars and other people of similar economic status fall into this bracket.
So, as you can see, Nigeria is not starkly divided into rich and poor. Perhaps if you wanted to divide Nigeria into SuperMegaKabuto Rich and Non-SuperMegaKabuto Rich then I could totally agree.
The fact is, Nigeria is stratified on socioeconomic levels just like any other country. And while there are really terribly poor people in Nigeria, it is not everybody and they are not even the majority. I would say that the three largest groups are the Lower Middle Class, the Working Class, and the Lower Class, and only one of these groups is out-and-out, categorically, ho-ha poor.
Finally, this is not a ranking of purely social class so please don't think that it is. I am not saying that teachers are lower class and that they are somehow beneath other people. I am ranking Nigerians according to socioECONOMIC status with HEAVY emphasis on the ECONOMIC part. Also, this is a VERY ROUGH/BROAD ranking and it is by no means definitive. It just a framework to give you guys (and any non-Nigerians out there) a snapshot of my idea of Nigeria's economic demographics.
As far as social class goes, it is a combination of things and not just money that go into determining social class. Having lots of money does not automatically make you upper class, and having little or no money even does not automatically make you lower class or destitute. For example, you may have money invested via a canadian stock market app that is worth several thousands but because you do not own a home or earn money, you can be considered lower class. There are people who have not even one kobo to their name in Nigeria that are upper class in every other aspect of their lives (except money of course) and there are some seriously lower class billionaires roaming about Nigeria like nobody's business. So, please do not be offended by this even though saying that is a waste of my breath.
Disclaimers to this post:
1. This is all just stuff I've written from my head. Please do not ask me for specific reports to back it up. I have lived in Nigeria for eighteen years, moved about frequently and interacted with all sorts of people, and I believe that as a Nigerian that makes my experiences in Nigeria a credible source to draw these conclusions from. Does this mean that my experience in Nigeria is THE DEFINITIVE Nigerian experience? No. Does it mean that my perspective on Nigeria is THE only right perspective or the only true perspective? No. I suppose a dirt poor person in Nigeria would probably say that there are only two kinds of people in Nigeria: Rich and Poor. That's an opinion that's formed from their own experiences in life. However, I'm thankful that I was born into a situation that allowed me to see a WIDE RANGE of Nigerian situations and this has led me to conclude (and categorize Nigerians according to socio-economic status) the way I have.
2. Regarding the Renting versus Owning situation, I am taking into account the fact that outside Nigeria's major cities, house ownership rates skyrocket. This is because we are a country where MOST people are still GENERALLY living on their own ancestral land. As a result, I only considered home ownership rates in Nigerian centres of migration (i.e. big cities where almost half the occupants are NOT living on their ANCESTRAL land - in other words, most of the people in Lagos and Abuja MIGRATED there).
3. I am well aware that there are very rich beggars out there (particularly in the North) who have made begging fortunes through organizing highly complex and stratified inter-state begging syndicates. However, for the general purposes of this post I am referring to the average every day Nigerian beggar.
4. I cannot vouch for the numbers on this. I'm just pulling this stuff out of my head BASED ON WHAT I HAVE SEEN, EXPERIENCED, and OBSERVED. In other words they are very broad estimates. If YOUR experience is different, that is fine. But please before you jump out to call me a liar remember that what is true for me might not be true for you but at the same time just because it isn't true for you does not make it any less true in general. However, the numbers for the poverty rates in Northern Nigeria, Eastern Nigeria and Western Nigeria are correct. I got them from a published study that came out last year. I have mislaid the study but I think some googling will eventually lead you to it. It was published in a couple of Nigerian newspapers so as far as my knowledge goes, the poverty rate numbers I quoted are accurate. Everything else is an estimate.
5. The titles of my classifications are taken from the book "Class" by Paul Fussel. However, the descriptions of the classes in Nigeria, occupations, etc are entirely my own based on my life in Nigeria and my own observations.Only the headings/titles belong to Mr. Fussel. But I must credit him as a reference for giving me an idea of where to start in classifying the Nigerian population.
6. There are always exceptions. I am well aware of this. There is no need to tell me about your Uncle's Brother's Aunty's Cousin who... I know.