Oxfam statistics are both meaningless & misleading

IEA reaction to Oxfam statistics released today

Commenting on Oxfam research claiming the richest 62 people have as much wealth as the bottom 3.6 billion, Mark Littlewood, Director General at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

“Despite the fact that global capitalism has eradicated poverty and generated prosperity in the developing world at an unprecedented rate, yet again the ‘anti-poverty’ charity Oxfam continue to obsess about the rich, misleading the public with bogus inequality figures.

“The methodology of adding up assets and subtracting debts and then making a global ‘net wealth’ distribution implies that many of the poorest in the world are those in advanced countries with high debts. Whilst we might have sympathy for the Harvard law graduate’s plight, it is unclear that worrying about her should be the focus of a development organisation.

“Oxfam’s methods generate frightening sounding statistics almost by construction. But they are also unsurprising from a demographic perspective; the median age of the adult global population is in the mid-30s, so most will not have built up their assets.

“Ultimately, the focus of all those concerned about the poor should be on developing the institutional arrangements to enable robust economic growth to alleviate absolute poverty. There are no doubt many corrupt countries where the wealth of the rich comes about at the expense of the poor, but in market economies this is largely not the case. Oxfam’s focus and prescriptions take our focus off this crucial distinction.”

Notes to editors:

To arrange an interview, please contact Stephanie Lis, Director of Communications: slis@iea.org.uk or 07766 221 268

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems.

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