World Inequality Report shows global trend of increasing wealth disparity

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Nora Povejsil /Staff
A study published by the World Inequality Lab found that the disparity between the wealthy and poor is increasing worldwide.

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The World Inequality Lab released a report Tuesday showing that the gap between the rich and poor worldwide has continued to increase throughout the pandemic.

The 2022 World Inequality Report, an international research effort to track global inequalities, found that the richest 10% of the global population owns 75% of all wealth in the world, whereas the poorest half makes up only 2% of the total.

“Human societies can choose how much inequality they generate through social and public policy,” said UC Berkeley professor Emmanuel Saez, one of the report’s researchers, in an email. “The report is a world map and a roadmap as to how.”

The report found that since 1995, the share of global wealth owned by billionaires has risen from 1% to more than 3%. Additionally, the average income of the individuals who make up the top 10% of the global income is 38 times higher than that of the poorer half.

Saez added the report gathers a “wealth of new data about inequality around the world.”

“We observe an extreme level of wealth concentration across the world,” said Thomas Piketty, the co-director of World Inequality Lab and one of the report’s coordinators, on Twitter. “Wealth inequality has been rising after Covid.”

According to the report, global inequality rose between 1820 and 1910 since the “great divergence” between Western countries and their colonies; since then, the level of global inequality has remained high.

The report found that Europe is currently the “most equal” region in the world, with the richest 10% of the region’s population owning approximately 36% of the region’s total income share. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Middle East and North Africa region is the “most unequal” region, with the wealthiest 10% of the region’s population owning 58% of the region’s total income share, according to the report.

The report states that the rise of modern welfare states during the 20th century has played a “critical role” in ensuring society’s acceptance of increased taxation, among other efforts to redistribute wealth.

Inequality is a political choice, not an inevitability,” the report states, adding that some countries, including the United States, Russia and India, have experienced “spectacular” increases in inequality, unlike China and countries in Europe, which have experienced relatively smaller increases in inequality.

According to the report, the top 10% of carbon emitters are responsible for nearly half of the world’s emissions, while the bottom 50% produce 12%.

The report states climate policies should target wealthy polluters more, as current climate policies, such as carbon taxes, have often “disproportionately impacted” low- and middle-income groups without changing the habits of wealthy polluters.

“The top priority should be to reduce the emissions of the top 10%,” Piketty said in the tweet.

Contact Winnie Lau at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @winniewy_lau.