The top 1% own 45% of all global personal wealth; 10% own 82%; the bottom 50% own less than 1% — Michael Roberts Blog

The annual Credit Suisse report on global wealth has just been released. This report remains the most comprehensive and explanatory analysis of global wealth (not income) and inequality of wealth. Every year the CS global wealth report analyses the household wealth of 5.1 billion people across the globe. Household wealth is made up of the […]

via The top 1% own 45% of all global personal wealth; 10% own 82%; the bottom 50% own less than 1% — Michael Roberts Blog

5 thoughts on “The top 1% own 45% of all global personal wealth; 10% own 82%; the bottom 50% own less than 1% — Michael Roberts Blog

  1. What does the graphic, what do these figures tell us?

    I don’t like “uninterpreted” figures/diagrams about inequality. Of course, they can have a very useful function for data miners and those in the process of writing up their own story of inequality – but I’d prefer more than just a collection of data.

    How much inequality is tolerable? When is inequality bad?

    Pursuing such questions quickly leads one into a vast system of ramifications.

    Inequality isn’t trivial, unfortunately the theme tends to provoke rash emotional reactions, when the subject ought to be approached in a level-headed way, which is likely to reveal that inequality has its positive as well as its negative effects.

    Especially of those who advertise their (widely popular) outrage in the face of inequality, I’m eager to learn how they respond to the question: can there be something good about inequality?

    • I think you make a fair point. The original poster, Michael Roberts, doesn’t make any value judgements in the post, and I didn’t add anything. I have posted on inequality a fair bit, once in looking at the works of Piketty and others, and elsewhere as a theme that arises in discussions about other issues. But I thought the data was interesting despite that.

      To respond further to your comments, some people are against inequality, but perhaps do not make clear whether they think that any inequality is bad, or whether it is excessive inequality that is a problem. When push comes to shove, I would hope that most people realise, perhaps begrudgingly, that some inequality is inevitable and would be impossible and dangerous to try to eliminate. In economics, inequality can help provide incentives for work and innovation and provide savings at the macro level which can finance investment and economic growth. But beyond a certain point, inequality might restrict consumption, aggregate demand and growth. It could also lead to social and political instability, if the inequality is perceived as “unfair” and the wealthy are not perceived as legitimate. There is therefore a subjective and ethical element, as well as more objective ones.

      There have been some interesting surveys done in countries such as the US, in which people’s perceptions on the distribution of income and wealth come in way below the true figures. They are rather surprised when the true figures are revealed to them. It suggests that there is potential for a broader consensus on policies which reduce inequality, even in the US, in which ideas about freedom from government interference and the primacy of the individual seem to be stronger than many other rich nations.

      • My criticism was not directed toward you, Nick, as may not have been obvious. But I’m glad I made it as it elicited an excellent answer. Like in many of your posts, you take a comprehensive and balanced view, putting the essence in a nutshell. Thank you — a great help in bringing order into one’s thoughts about a vast and tricky field.

  2. From an excellent post entitled “Wealth Inequality: It’s Complicated”

    “… there are more immigrants in the United States (their share of the population has doubled over the last decades). While immigrants are clearly better off after moving to America, they also tend to be slightly poorer than the average American. Because they swell the lower part of the income distribution, they give the impression of rising inequality (in both income and wealth). With regard to income, David Card pointed out that immigration explained 5 percent of the recent increase in inequality.

    In Canada, where immigration levels are higher, immigration explains an even larger share of the increase. But why should this increase worry us? Immigration research suggests that there are important wage gains to the natives, mild gains in economic growth, and little to no fiscal cost to the population. All of this is compounded by massive gains to immigrants themselves. Clearly, that increase in inequality is not worrisome.”

    • An interesting counterpoint to the usual dialogue on inequality. One point to add is that, largely thanks to rapid economic development in China over the last forty years, inroads have been made into global inequality over that period, while inequality has risen within many countries. Global inequality can be reduced by more successful and inclusive development in poorer countries, especially if they have large populations. But while there are some success stories there are plenty of countries which have been hamstrung by poor policies, imposed from within and without, which have failed to turnaround troubling historical trends.

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