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Local villagers scavenging coal illegally from an open-cast mine in a village near Jharia, India, in 2012.
Just 1 percent of the world's population controls nearly half of the planet's wealth, according to a new study published by Oxfam ahead of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting.
The study says this tiny slice of humanity controls $110 trillion, or 65 times the total wealth of the poorest 3.5 billion people.
Other key findings in the report:
— The world's 85 richest people own as much as the poorest 50 percent of humanity.
— 70 percent of the world's people live in a country where income inequality has increased in the past three decades.
— In the U.S., where the gap between rich and poor has grown at a faster rate than any other developed country, the top 1 percent captured 95 percent of post-recession growth (since 2009), while 90 percent of Americans became poorer.
"Oxfam is concerned that, left unchecked, the effects are potentially immutable, and will lead to 'opportunity capture' — in which the lowest tax rates, the best education, and the best healthcare are claimed by the children of the rich," the relief agency writes. "This creates dynamic and mutually reinforcing cycles of advantage that are transmitted across generations."
In other words, Oxfam says that if trends continue, the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer.
"[People] are increasingly separated by economic and political power, inevitably heightening social tensions and increasing the risk of societal breakdown," the report says.
The World Economic Forum is scheduled to hold its annual meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, beginning Jan. 22.
The Oxfam report largely mirrors findings of several other studies in recent years that have documented growing income inequality in the U.S. and across the globe.
In September, a University of California, Berkeley study found that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans saw their incomes grow by 31.4 percent over the period 2009 to 2012, while the other 99 percent experienced just 0.4 percent growth. Last month, the Pew Research Center published a study that found income inequality in the U.S. was at its highest since 1928, the year before the start of the Great Depression.