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The Oxfam Report is Important, But There’s More to the Story

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The Oxfam Report is Important, But There's More to the Story

The Oxfam Report is Important, But There’s More to the Story

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

Prior to the opening day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Oxfam International made waves with its latest report on global inequality. In particular, one “shock value” finding made headlines: eight men now combine to have the same wealth as half of the world’s population, or 3.6 billion people.

Today’s chart breaks down who these men are and how much they own in terms of assets. But, it also serves as a springboard to dive into a few other thoughts on the Oxfam report, inequality, philanthropy, and eradicating poverty.

The Giving Pledge

When I saw the headline from the Oxfam report, one of my first thoughts was: how many of these billionaires have signed The Giving Pledge?

The Giving Pledge was launched in 2010 by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. It’s stated goal is to “help address society’s most pressing problems” by inviting “the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy”. So far, it’s been signed by 139 individuals with commitments of $732 billion.

Of the eight people at the top of the wealth pyramid, the majority has signed The Giving Pledge including: Bill Gates (co-founder), Warren Buffett (co-founder), Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, and Michael Bloomberg.

Three of the eight billionaires haven’t signed the pledge. Jeff Bezos is included in that mix, and he has faced some criticism over the fact. The other two that have not signed yet are Spanish billionaire Amancio Ortega and Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helú.

At the end of the day, signing the Giving Pledge is not yet equivalent to “walking the walk” in helping to solve pressing problems like poverty or inequality. However, people like Gates and Buffett have already made a huge difference to charitable causes.

Here’s what Warren Buffett recently said about his fortune:

In my entire lifetime, everything that I’ve spent will be quite a bit less than 1 percent of everything I make. The other 99 percent plus will go to others because it has no utility to me. So it’s silly for me to not transfer that utility to people who can use it.

Buffett is one of the world’s best investors – and if he continues to invest his money wisely into philanthropy, the result will likely be something that even Oxfam can be proud of.

The Poor Are Actually Getting Richer

While the sensational fact that headlined the Oxfam report is certainly alarming and important, it also misses some noteworthy context.

People in many of the world’s poorest nations aren’t getting poorer – they are actually getting much richer. The number of people living in extreme poverty has been cut in half since 1990.

Here’s another way to show it – and perhaps this is where the emotional pain points arise:

Courtesy of: Harvard Business Review, h/t Ian Bremmer

The poorest and richest cohorts of the global population, along with the Asian middle class, all got much richer over the last two decades.

The American middle class, however, was not so lucky. Median income for 81% of U.S. counties actually peaked back in 1999, and other Western countries are facing similar inequality challenges.

One Last Chart

The final chart here is courtesy of Swedish author and historian Johan Norberg, who wrote a sarcastic response to the Oxfam report:

Oxfam and many others are rightly concerned about inequality. But, for the people that need it most, things continue to get better. Such a narrative is not sexy enough for a click-driven media that thrives on sensational or emotional soundbites.

For more information about the metrics that are continuing to improve, see this post by Peter Diamandis, or this one in Reason.

Here’s one final quote from Norberg worth considering:

Part of our problem is one of success. As we get richer, our tolerance for global poverty diminishes. So we get angrier about injustices. Charities quite rightly wish to raise funds, so they draw our attention to the plight of the world’s poorest. But since the Cold War ended, extreme poverty has decreased from 37 per cent to 9.6 per cent — in single digits for the first time in history.

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Business

Mapped: The 50 Richest Women in the World in 2021

Fewer than 12% of global billionaires are women, but they still hold massive amounts of wealth. Who are the 50 richest women in the world?

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Mapped: The 50 Richest Women in the World in 2021

View the high-resolution of the infographic by clicking here.

According to a recent census by Wealth-X, 11.9% of global billionaires are women. Even at such a minority share, this group still holds massive amounts of wealth.

Using a real-time list of billionaires from Forbes, we examine the net worth of the 50 richest women in the world and which country they’re from.

Where are the World’s Richest Women?

The richest woman in the world, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers and family own 33% of stock in L’Oréal S.A., a French personal care brand. She is also the granddaughter of its founder.

In April 2019, L’Oréal and the Bettencourt Meyers family pledged $226 million (€200 million) towards the repair of the Notre Dame cathedral after its devastating fire.

Following closely behind is Alice Walton of the Walmart empire—also the world’s richest family. Together with her brothers, they own over 50% of the company’s shares. That’s a pretty tidy sum, considering Walmart raked in $524 billion in revenues in their 2020 fiscal year.

Other family ties among the richest women in the world include Jacqueline Mars and her four granddaughters, heiresses to a slice of the Mars Inc. fortune in candy and pet food—and all of them make this list.

RankNameNet Worth ($B)Country
#1Francoise Bettencourt Meyers & family$71.4🇫🇷 France
#2Alice Walton$68.0🇺🇸 United States
#3MacKenzie Scott$54.9🇺🇸 United States
#4Julia Koch & family$44.9🇺🇸 United States
#5Yang Huiyan & family$31.4🇨🇳 China
#6Jacqueline Mars$28.9🇺🇸 United States
#7Susanne Klatten$25.8🇩🇪 Germany
#8Zhong Huijuan$23.5🇨🇳 China
#9Laurene Powell Jobs & family$22.1🇺🇸 United States
#10Iris Fontbona & family$21.0🇨🇱 Chile
#11Zhou Qunfei & family$18.6🇭🇰 Hong Kong
#12Fan Hongwei & family$17.9🇨🇳 China
#13Gina Rinehart$17.4🇦🇺 Australia
#14Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken & family$17.1🇳🇱 Netherlands
#15Wu Yajun$16.3🇨🇳 China
#16Abigail Johnson$15.0🇺🇸 United States
#17Kirsten Rausing$13.5🇸🇪 Sweden
#18Kwong Siu-hing$13.0🇭🇰 Hong Kong
#19Lu Zhongfang$12.7🇨🇳 China
#20Wang Laichun$12.7🇨🇳 China
#21Cheng Xue$10.8🇨🇳 China
#22Massimiliana Landini Aleotti & family$10.6🇮🇹 Italy
#23Denise Coates$9.9🇬🇧 United Kingdom
#24Lam Wai Ying$9.1🇭🇰 Hong Kong
#25Ann Walton Kroenke$9.1🇺🇸 United States
#26Savitri Jindal & family$8.7🇮🇳 India
#27Nancy Walton Laurie$8.2🇺🇸 United States
#28Blair Parry-Okeden$8.2🇺🇸 United States
#29Diane Hendricks$8.0🇺🇸 United States
#30Christy Walton$7.8🇺🇸 United States
#31Zhao Yan$7.8🇨🇳 China
#32Zeng Fangqin$7.6🇨🇳 China
#33Magdalena Martullo-Blocher$7.5🇨🇭 Switzerland
#34Rahel Blocher$7.4🇨🇭 Switzerland
#35Marie-Hélène Habert$7.2🇫🇷 France
#36Pamela Mars$7.2🇺🇸 United States
#37Victoria Mars$7.2🇺🇸 United States
#38Valerie Mars$7.2🇺🇸 United States
#39Marijke Mars$7.2🇺🇸 United States
#40Sandra Ortega Mera$7.1🇪🇸 Spain
#41Antonia Ax:son Johnson & family$7.0🇸🇪 Sweden
#42Sofie Kirk Kristiansen$6.9🇩🇰 Denmark
#43Agnete Kirk Thinggaard$6.9🇩🇰 Denmark
#44Li Haiyan$6.7🇨🇳 China
#45Ronda Stryker$6.6🇺🇸 United States
#46Marie Besnier Beauvalot$6.3🇫🇷 France
#47Zheng Shuliang & family$6.2🇨🇳 China
#48Meg Whitman$5.8🇺🇸 United States
#49Chan Laiwa & family$5.8🇨🇳 China
#50Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala & family$5.8🇲🇽 Mexico

All data as of January 15, 2021 (9AM PST)

MacKenzie Scott, ranked #3 on the list, was heavily involved in the early days of turning Amazon into an e-commerce behemoth. She was involved in areas from bookkeeping and accounts to negotiating the company’s first freight contract. Her high-profile divorce from Jeff Bezos captured the headlines, notably because she gained control over 4% of Amazon’s outstanding shares.

The total value of these shares? An eye-watering $38.3 billion—propelling her to the status of one of America’s richest people.

However, MacKenzie Scott has more altruistic ventures in mind for this wealth. In 2020, she gave away $5.8 billion towards causes such as climate change and racial equality in just four months, and is a signatory on the Giving Pledge.

[Scott’s near $6 billion donation has] to be one of the biggest annual distributions by a living individual.

—Melissa Berman, CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

Looking towards the East, Yang Huiyan became the richest woman in Asia after inheriting 70% of shares in the property development company Country Garden Holdings. The company went public in 2007, raising $1.6 billion in its IPO—an amount comparable to Google’s IPO in 2004.

To aid frontline health workers during the pandemic, Country Garden Holdings set up robotic, automated buffet stations to safely serve medical staff in Wuhan, China.

Giving Generously

While the 50 richest women in the world have certainly made progress, the overall tier of billionaires is still very much a boys’ club. One thing that also factors into this could be the way this wealth is spent.

As many female billionaires inherited their wealth, a large share are more inclined to contribute to charitable causes where they can use their money to make an impact. What percentage of billionaires by gender have contributed at least $1 million in donations over the past five years?

Made $1mm in donations over last 5 years (%)

Source of wealth👩 Female philanthropists👨 Male philanthropists
Inherited68%5%
Inherited/Self-made20%28%
Self-made12%67%

Source: Wealth-X

Meanwhile, male billionaires are more likely to donate to charity if they built the wealth themselves—and many companies that fall into this category certainly stepped up during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis.

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Politics

Putting the Cost of COVID-19 in Perspective

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cost of COVID-19

Putting the Economic Cost of COVID-19 in Perspective

When it comes to the toll on human life, mental well-being, and any long-term complications, the true cost of COVID-19 can be difficult to quantify.

That said, from a purely economic angle, researchers can and do examine these things—as well as economic data like unemployment and lost GDP, to assign dollar figures to the pandemic.

Using data from a study out of Harvard University, these visualizations focus on putting the economic cost of COVID-19 in the U.S. in perspective. To help us understand the immense price associated with a pandemic, the study looked at other comparables like the costs of running America’s longstanding war on terror.

Cost of COVID-19 vs. post 911 wars

The Cost of COVID-19

Since the pandemic took hold in the U.S. in March 2020, job loss has been one of the most significant consequences. Unemployment claims in the U.S. have recently reached a total of 60 million, while lost GDP is estimated to be around $7.6 trillion.

Unemployment, uncertainty, lost loved ones, and lost social connections, have led to spikes in depression and anxiety. In April 2020, around 40% of U.S. adults reported having at least one of these mental illnesses. Based on the sheer number of people struggling, the cost of mental health impairment could be as high as $1.6 trillion, according to these researchers.

CategoryCost (Billions)
Lost Gross Domestic Product (GDP)$7,592
Premature Death$4,375
Long-Term Health Impairment$2,572
Mental Health Impairment$1,581
Total$16,120

The economic value of a human life can be put in terms of ‘statistical lives’, a notion used in both American and global health policy. While human life is priceless, the value tied to one using this metric sits between $7-$10 million. Even when using the lower end of the scale, the cost of premature death due to COVID-19 is estimated to be $4.4 trillion.

Finally, when looking at the long-term healthcare costs that could impact people who contract COVID-19, the price comes out to almost $2.6 trillion. These costs will go on for decades as certain lifelong conditions can emerge out of COVID-19, like respiratory and cardiovascular issues.

Many of these conditions could also end up causing premature deaths, drawing out the total cost of COVID-19 even further.

The Cost of War

cost of war example

Both a global pandemic and a war have long-term health consequences and are extremely pricey.

The estimated cost of the post-9/11 wars rises to over $6 trillion. This is measured by the spending of the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and USAID. The estimate also takes into consideration current and future spending on medical and disability care for veterans, the cost of war appropriations and spending, the estimated interest on borrowing for different departments, and the spending the Department of Homeland Security has done in order to prevent and respond to terrorism.

CategoryCost (Billions)
Department of Defense$1,959
State Department/USAID$131
Estimated Interest on Borrowing for DOD and State Dept OCO Spending $925
Estimated Increases to DOD Base Budget Due to Post-9-11 Wars$803
"OCO for Base” a new category of spending in FY2019 and FY2020$100
Medical and Disability Care for Post-9/11 Veterans $437
Homeland Security Spending for Prevention and Response to Terrorism $1,054
Total War Appropriations and War-Related Spending through FY 2020$5,409
Estimated Future Obligations for Veterans Medical and Disability FY2020 –FY2059 $1,000
Total War-Related Spending through FY2020 and Obligations for Veterans$6,409

Medical and disability care for veterans from the post-9/11 wars specifically comes out to $437 billion, with estimated future obligations for their care going up to $1 trillion.

The increases to the Department of Defense’s budget was $803 billion thanks to the post 9/11 wars, and the Department of Homeland Security has spent more $1.05 trillion on terrorism prevention and response.

While the costs associated with war are immense, and while the consequences of fighting in a war are usually lifelong, the estimated price is still about $10 trillion cheaper than the cost of COVID-19 in the United States.

Throwing Money at the Problem?

The short-term solution to COVID-19 seems to be vaccine investment, with the U.S. currently purchasing more than one billion doses. Vaccines could spell the return to a more normal life, both in terms of physical health and the health of the economy.

While economic recovery is on the horizon, the U.S—and other nations around the globe—will continue to pay the cost of COVID-19 for years to come.

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