Thursday, January 19, 2017

Yes, wealth disparities are pretty big

I haven't paid too much attention to the Oxfam claims about wealth distribution (you know, that 8 men control the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the world), but Peter Whiteford has looked at the criticisms of the methodology and notes this:
Critics of these figures point to two main issues. Firstly, the Credit Suisse figures calculate wealth as assets minus debts, so the bottom 1 per cent of the world wealth distribution actually have a negative net worth.

But people with negative net worth can include students, with student debts but who are about to enter a high paying job and people who have just purchased a house and whose equity is less than the mortgage outstanding. Should these people be counted as impoverished?

Oxfam directly addresses this issue, pointing out that if you take out net debt then the wealth of the bottom 50 per cent rises from around US$400 billion to US$1.5 trillion. This means the wealth of the bottom half is roughly equal to the richest 56 individuals in the world.

While this figure is not as dramatic as focusing only on the richest eight people, it still shows enormous disparities in wealth.
Update:  The Onion makes this contribution to the story:

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