Per Capita Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

This guide will help you learn what per capita means, the origin of the term, how to use it, synonyms, examples, and more.

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Per capita is a phrase you’ve probably heard most frequently used in school or on the news. Without an understanding of the true meaning, you may be hesitant to use it in a sentence or discuss it. Delving into the definition of per capita can help us give what we’re hearing context and broaden our vocabulary to include it where necessary. 

What Does Per Capita Mean?

Per capita, according to, has two definitions. It can be either an adjective or an adverb. Per capita can describe an object by or for each individual person. 

As an adverb, per capita, is defined as for each person. 


  • Indianapolis has the highest number of churches per capita of any city in the United States.

As an adjective, per capita means it is relating to or applied to each person. 


  • The GDP per capita was lower this year.

In the law, per capita is used to note or describe the manner of dividing an estate equally to all those related to an individual. This method of division does not regard the number of lines of descent, and the estate is simply equitably divided among the individual’s living relatives.

  • His will dictated that his estate would be given to his heirs per capita.

Each definition is essentially the same. The application is the only difference.

What Is The Origin of Per Capita?

The phrase per capita is a medieval Latin term that can be translated to mean “by head.” It can be traced back to the late 17th century. It has maintained roughly the same meaning for its entire existence in language.

How Do You Use Per Capita?

Per capita is a term that is most often used in the subjects of economics and statistics. Per capita is used to determine the application of certain metrics across a population. 

In Economics

In economics, per capita is typically used in reference to the population of an entire country, but it could be used to look at measurements in a region, state, or city as well. For example, The World Bank tracks the gross domestic product per capita of countries.

Other economic data that can be compared per capita include:

  • Purchasing power parity (PPP) rates
  • Total GDP
  • Real GDP
  • Gross national product (GNP)
  • Gross national income (GNI)

Each economic analysis is compared to the total population to give an accurate picture of the average of each metric per person. For example, the GDP per capita for Americans in 2020 was $63,543.58. Per capita GDP can help an economic analyst do an accurate comparison of the average person in one country to the average person in another country.

These economic metrics help compare the strength of a country’s economy and determine what country has the largest economy. For example, the United States has the fifth-highest median income, the sixth highest GDP per capita, and the fourth-highest mean income. This can encourage consumer confidence and investment attractiveness for a country.

In Statistics

In the field of statistics, a population refers to the entire group being discussed. The sizes of different populations can vary depending on the statistical research contexts. For example, in statistics you could determine how many apples per capita there are for the residents of New York state.

Statistical observances can help in a wide variety of social sciences, environmental studies, and more. For example, government statistics can examine poverty per capita to determine the percentage of people living in poverty for each state. This can help identify areas that are improving or declining over time. 

In Law

Under the law, if a person has not named beneficiaries, the inheriting family members may receive equal shares of the estate under per capita. This method of distribution divides the number of people who are descendants without regard to their line in succession. For example, grandchildren would receive the same share as a child or nephew.

If a will or bequest is not created before the time of death, per capita can be used to fairly divide a person’s estate. Sometimes a person can choose to use per capita in their will, but they may also opt to use per stirpes. Per stirpes is Latin for “by branch” or “by class.” Per stirpes would mean that an estate will be divided equally among the various branches of a family. 

What Are Synonyms For Per Capita?

Synonyms help us say the same meaning with different words. When you’re writing or speaking, this limits the off-putting occurrence of repetition.

Here are synonyms for pet capita:

  • Apiece 
  • Each one
  • Each person 
  • Per
  • Per head
  • Per person

What Are Antonyms For Per Capita?

Antonyms are tools for saying the opposite meaning of a word.

Here are antonyms of per capita:

  • Collectively 
  • Together 
  • Combined 
  • Altogether 
  • En masse 
  • Aggregately 
  • Closely 
  • Jointly 
  • Unitedly 
  • Per stirpes

Examples of Per Capita

Examples help us learn how to incorporate new words into our vocabulary by teaching us how to use them in sentences. Here are a few examples of using per capita in a sentence:

  • We calculated the PPP per capita for each of the countries we were researching.
  • The will was per capita, so equal shares were distributed to the heirs.
  • My mom and I each got an equal share of the estate because it was per capita.
  • The number of corporations per capita is really high in Delaware.
  • The study looked at the per capita income in the region.

The Last Word

The phrase per capita is used as a descriptive word for “per person.” Whether you are using it in legal matters, economic discussions, or everyday conversation, now that you know the meaning of per capita, you can use it with confidence and in the correct context. 


  1. per capita | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute | Cornell University
  2. GDP per capita (current US$) | The World Bank 
  3. Per capita Definition & Meaning |