An Oxfam briefing has noted that the richest 85 people in the world control the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population. That means about seven dozen people (the number of people it would take to crowd one subway-car) have as much of the world’s wealth as 3.5 billion people put together.
About half of the world’s wealth is owned by the richest 1% of the population and that wealth (all $110 trillion of it) is 65 times the wealth of the bottom half of the population.
Income inequality is a growing concern to say the least, and the financial crisis didn’t help things. In the U.S. the wealthiest 1% grabbed 95% of post-2009 growth and the bottom 90% became poorer.
“The reason you have these 85 families who own so much is the global open economy,” says Yahoo Finance’s Michael Santoli. “That’s also the instrument that’s bringing people into the working and middle class in most of the world.”
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Santoli has a point. According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation there are half as many poor people in the world today as there were in 1990. Since 1960, China’s real income per person has gone up eightfold while Brazil’s has increased by five-times and India's by four.
“Those people in China, they are doing better,” says Santoli, “but because of that, in part, the middle tier in the developed economies are not advancing at all.”
So is there a way to solve this problem? The future looks pretty bleak, according to Santoli.
“The huge long-term risk is that it so easily perpetuates itself -- that those advantages don’t go away and wealth and power become more concentrated down the road,” he notes.
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