Century Marks

Century Marks


The 85 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population, 3.5 billion people, according to Oxfam. Oxfam’s executive director Winnie Byanyima puts it graphically: this “tiny elite . . . could all fit comfortably on a double-decker bus.” Opinion polls in a number of Western industrialized countries, including the United States, indicate that a majority of people think the very rich have too much influence. Working for the Few, an Oxfam report, concludes that world poverty cannot be tackled without addressing wealth inequality and the political power that often accompanies it (Guardian, January 20).

Bible test

Chattanooga, Tennessee, is the most Bible-minded city in the United States, according to a study conducted by the Barna Group for the American Bible Society. The least Bible-minded metro area is made up of the adjoining cities of Providence, Rhode Island, and New Bedford, Massachusetts. Bible-mindedness was measured by how often residents claimed they read the Bible and how accurate they believe it is. Bible was defined to include Jewish readers of the Torah (Time, January 22).

Upward mobility

If you live in San Jose, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle or Salt Lake City, you have a greater chance of moving from the bottom fifth of the population in income to the top fifth than if you live in Indianapolis, Dayton, Atlanta, Milwaukee or Charlotte. Where income mobility is highest in the United States, the rates are comparable to those in countries with high economic mobility; where mobility is lowest in the United States, the rates are lower than those in any other developed country (“Where Is the Land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States,” National Bureau of Economic Research).

Easy being green

The amount of nature and green space that people encounter can make them happier. This is the conclusion of research at the University of Exeter that followed people who moved from one urban location to another. Those who moved to areas with more green space experienced an immediate uptick in their sense of happiness and well-being, which endured for up to three years. People who moved to areas with less green space experienced a downturn in their sense of well-being (the downturn tended to occur in the year before the move, suggesting a previous dissatisfaction). The lesson: green space leads to better mental health (Smithsonian, January 16).

Loving rich and poor

Pope Francis’s comments in support of the poor and critical of the rich are apparently making Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s job harder. The cardinal is trying to raise $180 million to renovate St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Ken Langone, a Catholic billionaire who cofounded Home Depot, complained to Dolan, ostensibly on behalf of a wealthy Catholic friend, saying that the church should cut out the finger-pointing at the rich. “You get more with honey than with vinegar,” he said. Dolan reportedly said that the offended donor misunderstood the pope’s comments. “The pope loves poor people, he also loves rich people—he loves people,” Dolan explained to CNBC (Los Angeles Times, January 3).