The 85 richest people on Earth now have the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the global population, according to a report released this week by the British humanitarian group, Oxfam International.
“It is staggering that in the 21st century, half of the world’s population owns no more than a tiny elite, whose members could all sit comfortably in a single train carriage,” said Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam’s executive director.
The bottom half of the population — about 3.5 billion people — account for about $1.7 trillion, or about 0.7 percent of the world’s wealth, according to the Oxfam report, titled “Working for the Few.” That’s the same amount of wealth attributed to the world’s 85 richest people.
This wealthy elite is only a small fraction of the richest 1 percent of the world’s population, which combined has amassed about 46 percent of the world’s wealth, or $110 trillion, according to the report. The top 1 percent had 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the population. The percentage of income held by the richest 1 percent in the U.S. has grown nearly 150 percent from 1980 through 2012. That small elite has received 95 percent of wealth created since 2009, after the financial crisis, while the bottom 90 percent of Americans have become poorer, Oxfam said.
In a report last week, the World Economic Forum said widening income inequality is the risk most likely to cause serious damage in the next decade. President Obama recently called the expanding gap between rich and poor a bigger threat to the U.S. economy than the budget deficit. A Gallup poll released this week found two-thirds of Americans were dissatisfied with the way income and wealth are distributed in the nation.