Every Kid on Earth Could Go to School If the World's 1,646 Richest People Gave 1.5 Percent

All together, the world's top billionaires make more than $5 trillion a year.

(Photo: Monika Lewandowska/Getty Images)

Nov 3, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

As the world recovers from the 2009 financial crisis, the number of billionaires has doubled. Meanwhile, 870 million people live in extreme poverty. The old expression “The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer” continues to hold true.

That statistic, along with many other staggering figures, comes from international antipoverty group Oxfam’s recent report detailing the gaps between the rich and the poor. An extremely small group of people—85, to be exact—holds the same amount of wealth as half of the world’s poorest population. From March 2013 to March 2014, that group of 85 elites became $668 million richer every single day.

“In a world where hundreds of millions of people are living without access to clean drinking water and without enough food to feed their families, a small elite have more money than they could spend in several lifetimes,” said Mark Goldring, Oxfam's chief executive.

The world has 1,646 billionaires. All told, their wealth amounts to $5.4 trillion. To put that in perspective, the figure is more than double France’s gross domestic product in 2012. Oxfam’s report details just what could be done if these billionaires received a 1.5 percent tax increase. For example, that money could send every child to school or have saved 23 million lives by providing people with the means to invest in health care. Oxfam claims this wide disparity is hindering its ability to end global poverty.

That’s because economic inequality leads to inequality in practically every other aspect of life. Without financial stability, health care, education opportunities, and future income, opportunities are limited. It becomes a cyclical problem, perpetuated generationally. Even in the U.S.—where we’re taught that with ambition and drive we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and succeed despite modest beginnings—almost half of all children with low-income parents will become low-income adults, according to Oxfam.

With money and political cronyism comes power: As the rich maintain high political positions or financially support those in them, they’re able to back legislation to protect their interests. That means tax loopholes and unregulated accounts.

Oxfam wants to change this with its “Even It Up” campaign.

"The good news is that this growing inequality is not inevitable. It can be resolved," said Goldring. The organization devoted half of its report to detailing ways to dig people out of this disproportion. Its plan proposes further government regulation, closing the gender pay gap, raising the minimum wage, and ceasing of massive corporate tax breaks.