Canada / lets in / more new immigrants / per capita / than any / of the Group of Seven / advanced economies.

How to understand "per capita"? Why it is used here? Is it similar to "three meal a day" ?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Per capita literally means "per head".

It is used to be able to judge absolute size or numbers relative to population.

If two countries A and B both let in 1000 immigrants, but A has 1 million inhabitants while B has 2 million, then we can say:

Country A let in 0.001 immigrants per capita and
country B let in 0.0005 immigrants per capita.

This way we can see that relatively, A let in twice as many as B.

The same is used fro instance for GDP (Gross Domestic Product), "the amount of money made in a country". The numbers say something about the absolute economic size of a country, but the GDP per capita says something about the wealth of the people in the country.

"per capita" is Latin meaning "per heads" - a very careless and unclear formulation of the writer. It might mean considering the number of inhabitants of the country - it might been the number of persons granted admission to the country - you can choose what makes the most sense in the context or forget such imprecise formulations of a journalist. Perhaps, when you read the further text you will find out what he meant.

  • 4
    No. Per capita is very well defined and means that you divide some quantity by the number of inhabitants of a country (or members of another well defined group). GDP per capita is just one example. There is absolutely no carelessness on the side of the author in using the expression. The translation is "by heads" or "for each head". – oerkelens Feb 12 '14 at 10:33

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