World Wealth Study Finds Interesting Results


The most comprehensive world wealth study was completed yesterday by a group of British, Canadian, Finnish and U.S. economists put together by the United Nations. I’ll summarize the findings for you:

  • The richest 1% of people in the world own 40% of the wealth in the world.
  • The next richest 9% own the next 45% of the world’s total wealth (aka, top 10% own 85% of wealth).
  • The bottom 50% own 1% of the world’s wealth.
  • Nearly 4 out of every 10 people in the wealthiest 1% of the world are American (and everyone wonders why we feel so overworked).

Doesn’t seem fair does it? If the world’s wealth was even spread over each person we’d all have $26,000 to our names. I recently traveled a few different countries and have yet to find one where people work as hard or are as motivated as Americans. I wonder if our work ethic has everything to do with these statistics or are we just in the right place at the right time? If you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear from you.

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2 thoughts on “World Wealth Study Finds Interesting Results

  1. Interesting point John, but I would disagree with you in that hard work has no direct correlation with a person’s wealth. Although keeping many variables in mind, a person in a place of privledge is going to do well by working hard, no doubt about it. What about those people that work their bums off in 3rd world countries such as Mexico, Honduras, and El Salvador that get paid pennies for pulling 18 hour days? I don’t think that’s particularly Club Med, do you?

  2. I’ve lived in Taiwan, Canada, and Austria but am American by birth and raising. Compared to Austria, Americans definitely work way way harder. And yet they somehow have this backward notion that we’re lazy just because we have a higher level of obesity. (Um, could it be that we have a higher level of obesity because we’re chained to our desks all day?) The work ethic in Canada is somewhere between that in Austria and America.
    I have to say, though, that in Taiwan I was utterly worn to the ground by the amount of work that was the norm among my colleagues. I believe a study came out that said that Koreans work on average the most hours a week and the most hours a year–they averaged something like 54 hours a week! Taiwan was above 50 as well. Americans were in the mid-40’s and were near the top of the list. I know that it’s possible to work many hours a week but not as many a year in total because of vacation time, but not surprisingly, there was a negative correlation between hours/wk and vacation days per year. Furthermore, in Korea, the work week is 6 days!
    So my overall point is that Americans do have a great work ethic compared to some other countries, but I have to say that they’re behind some of the East Asian countries. That’s not a bad thing. I get the feeling that the hours the Taiwanese are putting in now (averaging in the mid-50’s, 6 days a week) resemble what American workers were doing in the early 1900’s. But as was the case in America, it’s difficult for a workforce to sustain that level of work ethic and motivation over the course of a century. Workers will become unhappy and demand changes, and so there might also be a trend toward moderation in those Asian countries 50 years from now.
    Perhaps it’s not surprising that those East Asian countries are quickly gaining in wealth.

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