We are the 5%

One of the ‘memes’ which dominated the US presidential election but which really began with the ‘Occupy’ movement there, was the notion of the ‘1%’ – the most privileged households in the US who control a major share of the country’s wealth.

So what about the equivalent here? We could start with the fact that only around 42,800 people in the country admit to an income of Rs 10 million or more to the income tax department. But almost everyone, the finance minister included, thinks that figure is laughably low. Here I want to talk about a more er…inclusive definition of the privileged.

Take a look at the map below. It maps the proportion of households in each district, who told census-takers that they own all of the following – a TV set, a phone, a computer and a vehicle (scooter/motorcycle or car). That number, for the country as a whole, is 4.6% (roughly 11 million households).

I leave you to draw your own conclusions about what it means to be ‘privileged’ in this country. I also leave you with this question: If the census takers had asked each one of these households, what ‘class’ of society they thought they belonged to, or where they fit in within the income distribution, what do you think their response would have been ( and by ‘their’, I also mean ‘our’)?

(hover mouse over individual districts to see the name and associated data)


Chandigarh and a couple of districts of Delhi account for the largest share of such households, but even here, the proportion does not cross 30%.

The ‘limiting asset’ here is computer ownership which is about 10% of households, far lower than the next in line which is scooters/motorcycles/mopeds (21%). And remember, we are talking about ownership, not access. To the extent that members of a household can use a computer outside the home, say at a cybercafe, our number would be larger, if we looked at the access metric.

The map of India used above is based on 2011 census districts, but is most emphatically not ‘georeferenced’. I took it from here. It is also pretty much the only effort, that I can find online, to create a vector map which is compatible with the 2011 census data, and which is open source. It’s generated by this guy.

There is also a problem, I think, with one district in Gujarat ( the white bit), which is not being rendered properly, but am not sure how to fix that.

All data based on the households assets table of 2011 census.

As always, I’ve used the D3 library of Mike Bostock. And as always, this is a map that should render well in the latest versions of all browsers, but no guarantees (especially for older versions of IE)

April 1, 2013

8 responses to We are the 5%

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