10 startling facts about global wealth inequality

January 22

1. On Monday, Oxfam published a startling report showing that the richest 85 people in the world are worth more than the poorest 3.5 billion.

2. The numbers Oxfam is using come from Credit Suisse's 2013 Global Wealth Report. There are a lot of amazing numbers in that report.

3. For instance, Switzerland leads in average wealth, with each adult worth, on average, $513,000. Australia is in second place, at $403,000. The U.S. is in the $250,000-300,000 range.

4. But that's average wealth — which is to say, that number spikes if Bill Gates moves into your country. Median wealth is a more interesting measure. There, Australia leads with $220,000. They're followed by Luxembourg, Belgium, France, Italy, the UK, and Japan. The U.S. falls way back on this measure, with a median wealth of just $45,000.

5. Think about that for a minute: Most Americans are worth less than most Italians, Belgians and Japanese.

6. Some researchers think Credit Suisse overestimates median wealth in the U.S. Other estimates put us in 27th place.

7. The tremendous difference between average wealth and median wealth is the country's level of wealth inequality at work.

8. Global wealth inequality is even more startling, of course. After accounting for debts, assets of more than $4,000 put a person in the wealthiest half of world citizens. Assets of more than $75,000 put them in the top 10 percent. Assets of more than $753,000 put them in the top 1 percent.

9. This leads to the most startling figure in the report: "Our estimates suggest that the lower half of the global population possesses barely 1% of global wealth, while the richest 10% of adults own 86% of all wealth, and the top 1% account for 46% of the total. "

10. There's a lot of turnover amidst the world's top billionaires. Of the 100 top billionaires in 2001, only 37 remained on the list in 2013.

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Sarah Kliff · January 22