Tuesday, December 05, 2006

World wealth distribution: things you should know about aristocracy today

It's pretty common knowledge that world income is very unevenly distributed. Now, via Reuters, comes news of a study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the U.N. University that 2% of adults own more than half the world's wealth.

Here's a couple of other estimates from the study:

"We've estimated that the richest 2 percent of adults own more than half of global wealth, while the bottom half own 1 percent," said institute director Anthony Shorrocks.

He likened the situation to that where, in a group of 10 people, one person has $99, while the remaining nine share $1.

...

According to the study, in 2000 a couple needed capital of $1 million to be among the top 1 percent on the wealth list -- the richest 37 million people in the world.

More than one in every two of those people lives in the United States or Japan.

And it found that net assets of $2,200 per adult would put a household in the top half of the world wealth distribution.

Now correct me if I'm wrong, but the qualification for being one of the top 1% seems kind of low to me. If you bought a nice house in Toronto about 25 years ago, and paid off the mortgage, you might be on that list. If that qualification is accurate, then two things would seem to follow: a huge proportion of the world's population has net assets of 0 or close to it; and a huge proportion of the public figures you know -- those people whose faces you see on screens -- must be in that group of 37 million.

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