Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A shantytown in São Paulo, Brazil, borders the much more affluent Morumbi district. (Photo: Tuca Vieira / Oxfam)

Oxfam’s Crystal Ball Confirmed: The Top 1% Now Own Over Half of the World’s Wealth

The world is experiencing an immense problem with wealth inequality, and it’s not just a problem of economics, it’s a problem of power.

Nick Galasso

The world’s richest 1 percent now own more wealth than all of the bottom 99 percent combined. This finding comes from Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report for 2015, released last week. Last year, Credit Suisse found the richest 1 percent of adults owned 48 percent of global wealth. According to the new report, the top 1 percent now hold 50.4 percent of all the world’s household wealth.

Credit Suisse’s findings are in line with Oxfam’s prediction that global wealth inequality is only becoming greater. Last January, we predicted that the richest 1 percent would capture more than half of all household wealth by 2016. It looks like our prediction was right, but that we were too conservative, since it has happened a year early. Alas, our forecast was confirmed, but it’s nothing to celebrate.

Share of global wealth of the top 1% and bottom 99% respectively; Credit Suisse data available 2000–2015

When you look at the very top of the global wealth pyramid, the situation is much more alarming. When we first calculated in January 2014, the 85 richest individuals own more wealth than the poorest half of the planet. This trend has also worsened since that time. Last January, it was down to 80 people.

The implications of rising extreme wealth inequality are greatly worrying. The highly unbalanced concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer and fewer people impacts social stability within countries and threatens security on a global scale. It makes poverty reduction harder, threatens political inclusion, and compounds other inequalities.

In many ways, today’s problem of rising wealth inequality reflects who wields power across societies. For instance, multinational corporations and the very rich are able to shift their wealth to low tax jurisdictions and often pay lower rates on their wealth at home than average citizens pay on their hard-earned incomes.

In this respect, the real challenge is how average people can take back political power from wealthy elites who have the resources to rig the economic game in their favor. The rigging is evident in the ways elites are able to undermine democracy and equal representation by infusing huge amounts of cash into the political process. It’s also clear in the influence elites use to ‘capture’ the marketplace of ideas, perpetuating myths like trickle-down policies helping the poor and austerity measures are “responsible” – both which have been consistently disproven.

Findings such as Credit Suisse’s are awaking wide publics to the huge economic disparities that define the modern world. And people are increasingly calling attention to government policies that only work for the wealthy. For instance, in a recent Pew survey respondents from 34 emerging and developing economies indicated corruption was the second biggest problem facing their country. The links between corruption, crony capitalism and inequality aren’t hard to find. A study of India’s new billionaires found that nearly half made their fortunes in ‘rent thick’ sectors, meaning their wealth depended on exclusive government giveaways (such as permission to build on public lands or control over the telecom spectrum). Corruption and bribery are often behind such exclusive privileges.

What’s encouraging is that citizens from rich and poor countries are pushing back. There seems to be a global zeitgeist that capitalism has descended from being about competition and innovation to monopoly and corporatism. The latter are responsible for the massive inequalities we are grappling with today, especially the unfathomable concentration of the world’s wealth among an incredibly small number of people. The Credit Suisse figures empower citizens to hold governments to account for today’s inequalities with the cold, hard data to back up the injustices of poverty and power we see every day.

This blog was co-authored by Stephanie Fontana, a Research Intern at Oxfam America.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Nick Galasso

Dr. Nick Galasso is an American Council of Learned Societies Public Fellow, serving Oxfam America as a research and policy advisor. He leads Oxfam’s work on economic inequality.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Utterly Obscene': Just 8 Pfizer and Moderna Investors Became $10 Billion Richer After Omicron Emerged

"Pharma execs and shareholders are making a killing from a crisis they helped to create," said one justice campaigner.

Jon Queally ·


Ilhan Omar Calls Kevin McCarthy 'A Liar and a Coward' for Refusing to Condemn Boebert's Islamophobia

"This is who they are," said the Minnesota Democrat. "And we have to be able to stand up to them. And we have to push them to reckon with the fact their party right now is normalizing anti-Muslim bigotry."

Jon Queally ·


'Congress Must Act': Bernie Sanders Demands End of Filibuster to Codify Abortion Rights

"We must pass legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade as the law of the land in this country. And if there aren't 60 votes to do it, and there are not, we must reform the filibuster to pass it with 50 votes."

Jon Queally ·


Human Rights Defenders Warn Biden Border Policy 'Quickly Transforming Into Trump 2.0'

Like his predecessor, President Joe Biden now being accused of "using racist, xenophobic tropes about immigrants to weaponize Covid-19 against migrants and asylum-seekers."

Jon Queally ·


'Bombshell': Israeli Spyware Used to Hack iPhones of US State Department Officials

Calling the Israel-based spyware maker NSO Group an "in-plain-sight national security threat," one expert warned that "a multi-agency investigation is immediately needed."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo