The average Japanese earned the equivalent of $23,022 last year, well above the U.S. average of $18,163 and the highest income among major industrialized nations surveyed in a study released Thursday.

The U.S. average also was topped by the West Germans, whose income averaged the equivalent of $21,022.When it comes to what the money will buy - in technical tems, "purchasing power parity" - the average American remained in the lead with $9,009. The West German income was calculated on this basis at an average $7,783, the Japanese at $7,302.

The study, "Japan in the World Economy," surveyed earning power in six of the major industrial nations. After the top three nations, France had a per capita income equivalent to $17,657, Italy $14,903 and the United Kingdom $13,395.

The authors call purchasing power a better measure of people's prosperity, since it takes account of the cost of food and housing, which are especially high in Japan.