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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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Chart of the Week

The 10 Breakthrough Technologies That Will Define 2019

Which innovations will dominate headlines in 2019? According to Bill Gates, watch for these 10 breakthrough technologies to change the world.

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The 10 Breakthrough Technologies That Will Define 2019

Gone are the days of turning stones into spears. With the advent of new technologies, we’ve learned to develop tools that not only make living faster and easier every day, but also improve the future of humanity as a whole.

Today’s Chart of the Week draws from the MIT Technology Review, which features Bill Gates’ predictions for the top 10 breakthrough inventions that will capture headlines in 2019.

Top 10 Breakthrough Technologies

1. Gut Probe in a Pill
These swallowable devices can detect and potentially prevent diseases that cause malnutrition and stunted growth in millions of children worldwide.

2. Custom Cancer Vaccines
Personalized cancer vaccines, targeting only the cancerous cells and leave healthy cells alone, could help ensure faster recovery times and pose fewer risks to patients.

3. Meat-free Burgers
Plant-based and lab-grown food products will ideally alleviate the environmental impact of the livestock industry.

4. Smooth-talking AI assistants
The AI assistants of the future will have even more human-like conversations to personally engage customers. Companies would see measurable benefits, with just one breakthrough here garnering a 5% jump in productivity.

5. Sanitation without sewers
Improperly drained sewage causes death in one out of every nine children. Sanitation that doesn’t require sewers would not only prevent exposure diseases but also help turn waste into useful products like fertilizer.

6. ECG on your wrist
While most medical ECGS have up to 12 nodes to detect abnormalities, today’s wearables typically have only one. An ECG on the wrist would help reduce the risk of heart disease by monitoring changes and patterns in daily life.

7. Robot Dexterity
Advancements in robotics will enable the natural dexterity required to complete a greater range of tasks, such as helping an ailing loved one out of bed, doing the laundry, or building toys.

8. Predicting Preemies
Premature births are the leading cause of death for children under five years old. Tests to detect the possibility of a premature birth could be available in doctors’ offices in as little as five years.

9. Carbon Dioxide Catcher
Carbon dioxide catchers filter out CO₂ from the air and capture it for other uses. These include synthetic fuel creation, CO₂ for soft drinks, and plant growth in greenhouses.

10. New-wave Nuclear Power
Traditional nuclear reactors produce ~1,000 megawatts (MW), while these proposed mini-reactors would produce tens of megawatts ─ making them safer, more stable, and more financially viable for potential users.

A Vision for a Better Future

The biggest takeaway?

Seven of the 10 breakthrough technologies stem from the healthtech sector.

While several inventions on this list are years away from becoming a reality, they continue to embody the vision and passion that humans share to create and explore.

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Chart of the Week

How the Modern Consumer is Different

We all have a stereotypical image of the average consumer – but is it an accurate one? Meet the modern consumer, and what it means for business.

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How the Modern Consumer is Different

How the Modern Consumer is Different

There is a prevailing wisdom that says the stereotypical American consumer can be defined by certain characteristics.

Based on what popular culture tells us, as well as years of experiences and data, we all have an idea of what the average consumer might look for in a house, car, restaurant, or shopping center.

But as circumstances change, so do consumer tastes – and according to a recent report by Deloitte, the modern consumer is becoming increasingly distinct from those of years past. For us to truly understand how these changes will affect the marketplace and our investments, we need to rethink and update our image of the modern consumer.

A Changing Consumer Base

In their analysis, Deloitte leans heavily on big picture demographic and economic factors to help in summarizing the three major ways in which consumers are changing.

Here are three ways the new consumer is different than in years past:

1. Increasingly Diverse
In terms of ethnicity, the Baby Boomers are 75% white, while the Millennial generation is 56% white. This diversity also transfers to other areas as well, such as sexual and gender identities.

Not surprisingly, future generations are expected to be even more heterogeneous – Gen Z, for example, identifies as being 49% non-white.

2. Under Greater Financial Pressure
Today’s consumers are more educated than ever before, but it’s come at a stiff price. In fact, the cost of education has increased by 65% between 2007 and 2017, and this has translated to a record-setting $1.5 trillion in student loans on the books.

Other costs have mounted as well, leaving the bottom 80% of consumers with effectively no increase in discretionary income over the last decade. To make matters worse, if you single out just the bottom 40% of earners, they actually have less discretionary income to spend than they did back in 2007.

3. Delaying Key Life Milestones
Getting married, having children, and buying a house all have one major thing in common: they can be expensive.

The average person under 35 years old has a 34% lower net worth than they would have had in the 1990s, making it harder to tackle typical adult milestones. In fact, the average couple today is marrying eight years later than they did in 1965, while the U.S. birthrate is at its lowest point in three decades. Meanwhile, homeownership for those aged 24-32 has dropped by 9% since 2005.

A New Landscape for Business?

The modern consumer base is more diverse, but also must deal with increased financial pressures and a delayed start in achieving traditional milestones of adulthood. These demographic and economic factors ultimately have a ripple effect down to businesses and investors.

How do these big picture changes impact your business or investments?

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