When I saw a video documenting a radical sharing of wealth outside of the New York Stock Exchange, I began to think and investigate wealth and income in America and the world.
A BBC article and study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research report that the wealthiest 2% of the world control over half of global wealth; in contrast, the poor half of the world has barely 1% of the world's wealth. In a discussion over at OmniNerd, one commenter said,
So if the top 2% own 50% of all household wealth and the poorer bottom half owe 1%, that only leaves 49% for teacher and government employees.Another noticed,
That's actually an interesting way of looking at the numbers in this study. If 2% own 50%, and 50% own 1%, then it follows that the remaining 48% of the population owns 49% of the world's wealth. So, wealth distribution is actually pretty equitable for around 3.1 billion people, and that's not too bad, right?Pointing out that numbers can often be spun for an agenda, this commenter is right in remarking that for just under half the population--the upper half of the population, excluding the elite rich--wealth distribution is "even." I got to wondering though, is this 48% of the world really "teachers and government employees" as the first commenter suggested?
Cue Global Rich List, a service developed by a company in the UK to assess your personal income in comparison to the rest of the world. I plugged in my entry-level salary (in television, granted) and found that I am in the richest 0.98% of the world. Some sleuthing found the calculations use data from 2003 & 1999 ... but still.
Am I an anomaly? According to the US Census Bureau, the median household income was $44,344... that would place you in the upper 1.98% of the world's wealthiest. The "average American" is, it seems, a part of the world's elite rich. AFT found that the average teacher salary was $47,602 in the 2004-05 school year. Teachers are among the world's uber-rich, not among the 48% of the world's population which has it's fair share of wealth. We are a part of the small group that controls 50% of the world's wealth. Wow.
When asked, "Why are you doing this?" the folks over at Global Rich List responded,
We are obsessed with wealth. But we gauge how rich we are by looking upwards at those who have more than us. This makes us feel poor.MSN Money looks at the question of wealth a different way, assessing household wealth rather than income. Got $2,200? The computer you're reading this on is probably worth about that much. You're in the wealthiest half of the world. $61,000 worth of assets (cars, houses, possessions, savings, investments, etc) places you in the top 10% of the world. Phew.
We wanted to do something which would help people understand, in real terms, where they stand globally. And make us realise that in fact most of us (who are able to view this web page) are in the privileged minority.
We want people to feel rich. And give some of their extra money to a worthwhile charity.
What does this mean for me? I'm not really sure, but I know that I'm thankful.