BERKELEY (CBS NEWS) — The globe’s 2,750 billionaires now control 3% of all wealth, up from 1% in 1995 — that makes them wealthier than half the planet, according to a new report from a group founded by economist Thomas Piketty.

The wealth gap is roughly as wide as it was more than a century ago when the Gilded Age led to massive disparities between rich and poor, the World Inequality Lab found. The study was coordinated by Piketty, an expert on inequality known for his book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” as well as fellow inequality experts Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California at Berkeley.

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In the U.S., the gaps in wealth between rich and poor Americans “are close to those observed at the beginning of the 20th century,” the study noted. The poorest Americans are falling behind their counterparts in other nations. Although average household wealth in the U.S. is more than three times that of China, the poorest 50% of Americans possess less wealth than the poorest half of China’s citizens, the researchers found.

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This divide wasn’t always the reality in the U.S. In the decades after World War 2, the share of income enjoyed by the top 10% tumbled as progressive taxation redistributed money. Between 1944 and 1981, the top tax rate for the highest-earning Americans averaged 81%, compared with 37% today.

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