Wealth inequality is nothing new, but it’s reached staggering proportions in 2020. An Oxfam report released in January found that the world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than that of 4.6 billion other people combined — meaning they are wealthier than 60% of the earth’s entire population combined.
That’s not the only troubling statistic. Keep reading to see what wealth inequality really looks like in our modern world.
The 22 Richest Men Have More Wealth Than All the Women of an Entire Continent
The Oxfam report also estimated that the world’s 22 richest men have more wealth than all the women in Africa combined.
“Women and girls, who spend billions of hours cooking, cleaning, and caring for children and the elderly, are the backbone of our global economy yet benefit the least from it,” Paul O’Brien, vice president of policy and advocacy at Oxfam America, said in a release about the report. “It’s no accident that while most billionaires are men, women handle the care work and dominate the least secure and lowest-paid jobs. Women and girls are subsidizing our sexist economies, enabling rich, white, male billionaires to accumulate vast fortunes at the expense of the poorest.”
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The Top 1% Is Wealthier Than You Can Imagine
According to Oxfam, the world’s richest 1% of the population have more than twice the wealth of 6.9 billion people. At the same time, around 735 million people are living in extreme poverty.
You Could Save $10,000 a Day and Never Be as Rich as the 5 Richest Billionaires
Saving $10,000 a day is unrealistic for most people, but even if you could, your wealth would never catch up to the wealth of the richest billionaires. According to Oxfam, if you began saving $10,000 a day since the building of the pyramids in Egypt — which dates back to 2,504 B.C. — you would only have one-fifth the average fortune of the five richest billionaires.
The Wealth of Billionaires Is Literally Astronomical Compared to the Average Person
According to the Oxfam report, “if everyone were to sit on their wealth piled up in $100 bills, most of humanity would be sitting on the floor. A middle-class person in a rich country would be sitting at the height of a chair. The world’s two richest men would be sitting in outer space.”
Three Men Are Wealthier Than the Bottom Half of Americans
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffet have a combined net worth of about $300 billion. Meanwhile, the bottom 50% of Americans have a combined net worth of $255 billion, according to Inequality.org.
The Concentration of Wealth Has Spiked in Recent Decades
Inequality.org analyzed Forbes’ list of the 400 wealthiest Americans and found that the people on this list have grown exponentially wealthier over time. After adjusting for inflation, the average person on the Forbes 400 list had a net worth of $600 million in 1982; in 2019, the average was $7.4 billion.
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Jeff Bezos Is Worth 21 Times as Much as the Richest American of 1982
In 1982, shipping magnate Daniel Ludwig topped Forbes’ first list of the 400 richest Americans with an adjusted net worth of $5.3 billion. Bezos topped the list in 2019 with a net worth of $114 billion — which is actually much lower than his predivorce net worth of $162.9 billion in 2018.
The Rich Are Getting Richer While the Poor Are Getting Poorer
According to data from the National Bureau of Economic Research, in 1983, the top 0.1% of Americans had an average net worth of $43.3 million, adjusted to 2016 dollars; in 2016, the top 0.1% had an average net worth of $100.8 million. Meanwhile, the bottom 40% of Americans had a net worth of $6,900 in 1983, adjusted to 2016 dollars. By 2016, the bottom 40% had an average net worth of -$8,900 — this “negative wealth” is due to debts exceeding assets.
The Richest 5% of Americans Control Two-Thirds of the Country's Wealth
In 2016, the top 5% of Americans controlled 66.7% of the nation’s wealth, while the bottom 90% combined controlled just 21.2%, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. It wasn’t always this way — from the Great Depression through the next three decades, the share of America’s wealth held by the wealthiest Americans had dropped. But now that evening out has been almost completely undone.
The Top 1% Own More Than Half the Stocks Owned by Americans
The bottom 90% of Americans own only 11.9% of the stock held by Americans, while the top 1% own 54.2% of U.S. stock assets, according to Federal Reserve Distributional Financial Accounts data from the third quarter of 2019. Meanwhile, the bottom 90% has 75.3% of the debt and the top 1% has less than 5%.
The Top 1% of Americans Are Wealthier Than the Entire Middle Class
As of 2016, the top 1% of Americans owned $25 trillion in assets — 29% — of household wealth while the entire middle class — the middle 60% of Americans — owned just $18 trillion in assets, according to the Survey of Consumer Finances.
$165 Million for Jeff Bezos Is Equivalent to $121 for Most Americans
In February, Bezos purchased a $165 million home in Los Angeles — the most expensive residential property in the history of the city, according to the Los Angeles Times. Remarkably, the home is only worth roughly 0.125% of his total net worth. That means the money he spent on his house would be the equivalent of an American with a median net worth spending $121 on a home.
Every Second, Jeff Bezos Makes More Than Twice What the Average American Makes in a Week
Bezos makes $2,489 per second, according to Business Insider calculations. Meanwhile, the median U.S. worker makes $936 a week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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It Takes Jeff Bezos 15 Minutes To Earn What the Average College-Educated Man Will Make in His Lifetime
A man with a bachelor’s degree is expected to earn about $2.2 million over the course of his lifetime, according to a 2015 study published in Demography. Bezos can earn that amount of money in less than 15 minutes, according to Business Insider calculations.
The World's Billionaires Are Worth Nearly Half of the US' GDP
The gross domestic product of the U.S. is $21.7 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Meanwhile, the roughly 2,100 billionaires in the world are worth a combined $10 trillion.
The 400 Richest Americans Own More Wealth Than 33 Million Typical American Families
The median American family has a net worth of $80,000, excluding their car. The combined net worth of the richest 400 Americans is equivalent to the worth of 33 million of the typical American family, a 2017 report by the Institute for Policy Studies found.
America's Wealthiest Families Are Seeing Their Wealth Grow Exponentially While the Average American's Wealth Is Decreasing
Three of the richest families in America — the Waltons, the Kochs and the Mars family — have seen their wealth increase nearly 6,000% since 1982, according to a 2018 report by Inequality.org. Meanwhile, the median household wealth has decreased by 3% over that same time period.
America's Wealthiest Families Are 4 Million Times Richer Than the Average Family
The Waltons, the Kochs and the Marses are worth a combined $348.7 billion — more than 4 million times the median wealth of U.S. families, according to the Inequality.org report.
An Amazon Worker Would Need To Work 2.5 Million Years To Generate Jeff Bezos' Wealth
It would take an Amazon worker earning the company’s minimum wage of $15 an hour 2.5 million years to generate Bezos’ earnings. To put that in perspective, that’s more than 10 times the length of all human existence.
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About the Author
Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert.