Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Two Percent Own Half Of World's Wealth

A worldwide study of wealth has reported that 2 percent of the world's adults owned more than 50 percent of all assets as of the year 2000. The top 1 percent, in fact, owned 40 percent, while the top 10 percent owned 85 percent of everything. Assets of $2,200 put you at the 50th percentile, while assets of $61,000 and $500,000 put you at the 90th and 99th percentile, respectively. However, since the top 1 percent of the world's adults constitutes 37 million people, it is "far from an exclusive club".

You are invited to react to these figures as you will. Guilt, outrage or just plain relief are all acceptable human reactions. If you have half a million at your disposal, thank your lucky stars that you are an American. Comments at Dienekes' Anthropology Blog reminds us nonetheless that the need for money is relative. Half a million hardly makes you rich in America anymore, and it can drain away quickly if you have no continuing source of income. On the other hand, as one person says, "The fact that I can comfortably survive on 5 dollars a day in Russia certainly matters". Not to mention how little it might take to make ends meet in the Third World. Not that you would want to live there...

Another thing to consider is that the wealth calculations subtract debt from assets, such that millions of middle class Americans with 500,000 dollar homes and two brand new cars might stand a lot lower on this scale than they would like to. As the BBC says, "some citizens of the rich countries have more debt than assets - making them, the report says, among the poorest in the world in terms of household wealth...However, they are presumably better off in terms of what they consume than many people in developing countries."

"Richest 2% own 'half the wealth'" from BBC News
"Pioneering study shows richest 2 percent own half world wealth" from Dienekes' Anthropology Blog

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