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Although adults between the ages of 20 and 29 are better educated, on average, than their parents' generation, overwhelming student debt is contributing to a generational inability to accumulate wealth.

Although adults between the ages of 20 and 29 are better educated, on average, than their parents' generation, overwhelming student debt is contributing to a generational inability to accumulate wealth. (Photo: Tom Woodward/Flickr/cc)

Millennials Fall Far Behind as World's Richest 1% Hoard Half of Global Wealth

70 percent of the world's working-age adults have less than $10,000 each

Julia Conley

Anti-poverty advocates on Tuesday implored world leaders to combat the massive wealth gap described in the annual Global Wealth Report released by Credit Suisse, which showed that the world's richest one percent own just over half of the global wealth.

"This report highlights the huge gulf between the haves and the have nots—the world's richest one percent own more than everyone else combined while the poorest half of the population share less than a penny of every pound of wealth," said Katy Chakrabortty, head of advocacy for Oxfam, in a statement.

At the height of the global financial meltdown in 2008, the world's richest people held 42.5 percent of the global wealth, compared with 50.1 percent today. Thirty-six million people with over a million dollars make up just 0.7 percent of the global population, but control 46 percent of the world's $280 trillion dollars.

Meanwhile, 3.5 billion people who make up the world's least wealthy adults each have assets of less than $10,000. These adults account for 70 percent of people who are of working age.

The group is disproportionately represented in developing countries. "In some low-income countries in Africa, the percentage of the population in this wealth group is close to 100 percent," according to Credit Suisse's report.

The Global Wealth Report also presents a dire outlook for the world's young adults, referred to in the document as "unlucky millennials." Adults between the ages of 20 and 29 especially "faced the rigors of the financial crisis and the high unemployment that followed in many countries, and have also been widely hammered by high housing prices, rising student debt, and increasing inequality," according to the report.

Despite being better educated than their parents' generation, "millennials are not only likely to experience greater challenges in building their wealth over time, but also greater wealth inequality than previous generations."

"We expect only a minority of high achievers and those in high demand sectors such as technology or finance to effectively overcome the 'millennial disadvantage'," said Urs Rohner, Credit Suisse's chairman, in an interview with the Guardian.

Oxfam noted that the report is just the latest sign that the world's poorest have the deck stacked against them, recalling the recent release of the Paradise Papers, which showed how the rich hide their wealth in order to avoid paying the taxes that stand to shore up public services that, when well-funded, benefit the whole population.

"The recent Paradise Papers revelations laid bare one of the main drivers of inequality—tax dodging by rich individuals and multinationals," said Chakrabortty. "Governments should act to tackle extreme inequality that is undermining economies around the world, dividing societies, and making it harder than ever for the poorest to improve their lives."


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