A recent article that has been making rounds on the internet has the headline ” Just 8 men own same wealth as half the world”. This article cites an Oxfam press release which claims that “It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day”. This press release cites a Credit Suisse report as their main source but the detail given in the cited report doesn’t back up Oxfam’s alarming title.
The Credit Suisse report states that the average wealth of people in the bottom 50% is $972(page 119) which when multiplied by the 2.5 billion adults in the bottom half gives us a 2.2 trillion net worth for the bottom half. The 8 billionaires they cite have a combined net worth of about 450 billion, 5 times less than the 50%. This is still an alarming statistics and it shows that global inequality is a problem but the blatant sensationalising that Oxfam is doing will only discredit the cause. Like the tax evaders that Oxfam condemns, they have manipulated the numbers in a way to create the most shocking numbers for the purpose of gaining media attention instead of accuracy
The most likely way Oxfam got their figure was by including rich and middle-class individuals with negative net worths due to debt such as athletes and people who have begun mortgages into the figure to reduce the average net worth of the bottom 50%. This would create a shocking figure but also says that individuals in first world countries who have car or students loans are poorer than farmers without debt in places like India or china which is not what most people think when talking about wealth.
The most tragic part about this article is that the headline and data manipulation isn’t needed to create a shocking headline as the raw data itself is shocking enough. When 50% of the world population has only 1/50th of its wealth sometime is wrong and awareness can be raised without the creation of sensationalist hit pieces such as this. Sensationalism such as this can be used to discredit others who try to raise the issue in the further by poisoning the well