Per capita is a Latin prepositional phrase: per (preposition, taking the accusative case, meaning “by, by means of”) and capita (accusative plural of the noun caput, “head”). The phrase thus means “by heads” or “for each head”, i.e., per individual/person. The term is used in a wide variety of social sciences and statistical research contexts, including government statistics, economic indicators, and built environment studies.
It is commonly and usually used in the field of statistics in place of saying “for each person” or “per person”. It is also used in wills to indicate that each of the named beneficiaries should receive, by devise or bequest, equal shares of the estate. This is in contrast to a per stirpes division, in which each branch (Latin stirps, plural stirpes) of the inheriting family inherits an equal share of the estate.
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