Richest One Percent Of Americans Control 40 Percent of Wealth

June 01, 2011 1:22 pm ET — Jamison Foser

new study indicating that the richest one percent hold 39 percent of the world's wealth is getting some attention today. But it probably won't end up on the evening news — massive news organizations controlled by the world's wealthiest people don't tend to focus on the gap between the rich and everyone else.

Most Americans who do come across this statistic will likely think of places like South America and India and Africa that have long been famous for the contrast between the inconceivable wealth held by a fortunate few and unfathomable squalor in which millions of others live. They probably won't think of America — after all, Americans think the richest twenty percent of their fellow citizens control less than 60 percent of the nation's wealth,* so the idea of a mere one percent holding 39 percent of the world's wealth probably seems literally foreign to most Americans. 

So it's worth noting that the extreme worldwide concentration of wealth in the hands of such a tiny number of people is almost identical to the concentration found in America, where the richest one percent control 40 percent of total wealth

*The richest twenty percent of Americans actually hold more than 80 percent of the nation's wealth.