# On a journey to the source of a statisticJune 7, 2010 12:14 PM   Subscribe

What is the source of this statistic: "The world's richest 20 percent consume 70 percent of its resources".

This statistic is all over the internet, with slight changes in wording or numbers. I want to write an article about it, but don't want to use it unless I can find a verifiable, authoritative source. I have the vague impression that it may have come from the World Bank, but can't seem to find a definite source, after much searching. If you know the original source of this, or any other related statistics involving consumption rates, ecological impact of various populations, etc., I would be happy to hear about them. Thanks!
posted by crazylegs to society & culture (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

It's acutally 80-20, AKA the Pareto Principal
posted by Mach5 at 12:32 PM on June 7, 2010

Pareto principle.
posted by cabingirl at 12:32 PM on June 7, 2010

Richest tenth own 85% of world's assets

Google World Distribution of Household Wealth

There are studies for multiple years, and data for multiple years.
posted by bardophile at 12:37 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nth-ing Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule. Widely used as a non-precise, pseudo-scientific triage in business. Simply tells you that putting your best efforts toward 20% of your key metric will yield the biggest impact.
posted by beelzbubba at 3:29 PM on June 7, 2010

That's a function of "power law curves". Wealth is one of many, many things which tends to fit a power law curve.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:53 PM on June 7, 2010

For raw data the International Energy Agency and USGS websites should be good enough sources for a variety of production/consumption statistics.

The tricky part of your question is discerning who is using what and how much of it; for example, the USA consumes 25% of the world's petroleum despite representing only 5% of its population, yet a poor person in the US may not necessarily consume more than a rich one in India. Likewise, if metals and coal are mined and used in China to produce gadgets to be sold in the EU, how would we track who actually benefits from the consumption? I think it will be difficult to find authorative sources for that kind of statistic due to its inherent complexity.
posted by Bangaioh at 4:31 PM on June 7, 2010

Authoritative, rather.
posted by Bangaioh at 4:32 PM on June 7, 2010

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