Five Facts on Global Inequalities

Inequality is a major issue worldwide because it adversely affects the lives (health, longevity, safety, education, work, etc.) of millions of people who were unlucky enough to be born into families, communities and/or nations with few resources.  Inequality is usually measured in terms of income (what a person or household earns in a given period of time, usually a year) or wealth (the value of the things a person or household owns).  

InequalityWealth is more unequally distributed than income, but both income and wealth inequality have risen due to various social forces, including the global expansion of trade and markets, rising pay for top executives and people with higher education, and the “mechanization” or the replacement of people with machines in many industries.  The following five facts give a brief sense of the enormity of the inequalities worldwide.   

Thanks to Learning Life intern Maria Luevano for helping to research and draft these five facts.


1) The percentage of the world’s people deemed poor (i.e., living on $2 or less per day) has dropped by nearly half in a decade, from 29% in 2001 to 15% in 2011. 

Source: Institute for Policy Studies.  2015.  “Global Inequality.”


2) The 1% wealthiest people in the world own about 50% of the world’s household wealth.  The richest 10% own 88%.

Source: Credit Suisse.  2015.  “Global Wealth Report 2015”  


3) The world’s ten richest billionaires have more wealth than most nations produce in a year.  

Source: Institute for Policy Studies.  2015.  “Global Inequality.”


4) About 78% of the world’s millionaires live in Europe or North America.  The USA has about 5% of the world’s population but 46% of its millionaires.   

Source: Institute for Policy Studies.  2015.  “Global Inequality.”


5) About 71% of the world’s population has less than $10,000 in wealth, 21% has between $10,000 and $100,000, 7.4% have $100,000 to $1 million, and 0.7% have more than $1 million.  

Source: Credit Suisse.  2015.  “Global Wealth Report 2015.”