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85 richest people own as much as bottom half of population, says report

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The famed “one percent” may be smaller than we think.

Eighty-five of the world’s richest people own as much as the bottom half of the population, according to an Oxfam International report on economic inequality published ahead of Tuesday’s annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The bottom half–about 3.5 billion people–holds about $1.7 trillion in global wealth, the study says. At the top, that’s just 85 people with the same amount of wealth.

Oxfam’s projections were based on the Credit Suisse 2013 Global Wealth Report and the 2013 Forbes’ World Billionaires List.

According to the British humanitarian group’s study, the top one percent globally amounts to $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the global bottom half.

“This massive concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer people presents a significant threat to inclusive political and economic systems. Instead of moving forward together, people are increasingly separated by economic and political power, inevitably heightening social tensions and increasing the risk of societal breakdown,” said the Oxfam report.

As world powers convene in Davos, income inequality is top on their agenda.

The worsening global wealth gap was listed as the biggest risk facing the world in 2014, according to the Forum’s “Global Risks 2014” report.

Taking a ten-year outlook, the report highlighted 31 global risks that may pose significant threats to the world in the next decade. Second to wealth disparity were extreme weather events, followed by under- and unemployment.

“Each risk considered in this report holds the potential for failure on a global scale; however, it is their interconnected nature that makes their negative implications so pronounced as together they can have an augmented effect,” said Jennifer Blanke, Chief Economist at the World Economic Forum.

Income inequality has been at the fore of public debate.

Two out of three Americans are dissatisfied with the way income and wealth are distributed in the United States, according to a new Gallup poll released Monday.

President Barack Obama recently said the gap between rich and poor is a bigger threat to the U.S. economy than the budget deficit, calling it the “defining challenge of our time.”

Oxfam’s report called on world leaders in Davos to take steps to reverse the trend of widening inequality.

Among other things, the humanitarian group asked leaders to strengthen living wages for workers, support progressive taxation and crack down on financial secrecy and tax dodging.

H/T Sarah Sheffer

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