Are eight men as wealthy as half the world’s population?

By The Economist online

EVERY ten minutes, black Volkswagen shuttle vans ferry delegates from their hotels in Davos, Switzerland, to this year’s World Economic Forum, held from January 17th to 20th. If you could squeeze the world’s eight richest men into one of these vans, they might feel cramped. But they could comfort themselves with an extraordinary statistic: according to Oxfam, a charity, they own as much wealth ($426bn) as half the world’s population combined ($409bn).

To make this striking calculation, the charity draws on data from Forbes magazine, which lists the wealth of the billionaires, and Credit Suisse, which estimates the smaller holdings of everyone else, thanks to painstaking work by three scholars of wealth, Anthony Shorrocks, Jim Davies and Rodrigo Lluberas.

Pedants can nonetheless criticise Oxfam’s headline-grabbing comparison for its handling of debt, the dollar, labour and data. The world’s least wealthy include over 420m adults whose debts exceed their assets, leaving them with negative net worth. Most of this net debt is owed by people in high-income countries. There are, for example, over 21m Americans…

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Category: Business and finance, Approved, Finance and economics, FINANCE

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