The Richest 1% Will Soon Have More Wealth Than Everyone Else

A new report by the British charity Oxfam reveals that, on current trends, the richest 1% of the world’s population will possess more wealth than the other 99% by next year.

Oxfam notes that members of the 1% “had an average wealth of $2.7 million per adult in 2014.” In the report, titled Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More, we learn that the poorest 80% of the global population hold only a negligible amount of wealth.

In 2014, the richest 1% of people in the world owned 48% of global wealth, leaving just 52% to be shared between the other 99% of adults on the planet. Almost all of that 52% is owned by those included in the richest 20%, leaving just 5.5% for the remaining 80% of people in the world.

In a previous post, I discussed recent work by economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. Those two scholars charted a dramatic increase in the hoard of wealth held by the richest Americans. But they lacked clear data about the role of inheritance in that phenomenon. For their report, the Oxfam team examined Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires and determined that “over one-third of billionaires started from a position of wealth.”

The report includes many useful recommendations, including new social investment, protecting union rights, and raising taxes on the rich. Oxfam also recommends a battery of measures against wealthy tax cheats: “stopping the use of tax havens, including through a blacklist and sanctions; making companies pay based on their real economic activity.”

There are many salient proposals in the report, but the press release includes one strange recommendation.

Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, Chief Executive Officer of E.L. Rothschild and chairman of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism . . . called on business leaders meeting in Davos [at the World Economic Forum annual meeting] to play their part in tackling extreme inequality.

Asking the business elite to do something to reduce economic exploitation and class differences? That dog just won’t hunt, except maybe foxes.