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A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research says that 10,000 Bitcoin investors — representing less than 1% of holders — have ownership of nearly 30% of all Bitcoin.

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These select owners have 5 million Bitcoin, or 27%, of Bitcoin’s nearly 18.9 million coins in circulation. According to the Wall Street Journal, this one percent holds around $232 billion worth of Bitcoin.

The study relied on analysis of over a decade’s worth of Bitcoin transactions on the public ledger to conclude that centralization made the entire Bitcoin system vulnerable to systemic risk and allowed gains to be diverted to a small group of beneficiaries.

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“Despite having been around for 14 years and the hype it has ratcheted up, it’s still the case that it’s a very concentrated ecosystem,” Dr. Antoinette Schoar, a scholar at MIT Sloan School of Management who conducted the study told the Wall Street Journal.

While Bitcoin has often touted a decentralized system with no gatekeepers, the reality is that it continues to be highly centralized through crypto exchanges and high mining costs that limit participation to small clusters of companies with the capital to do it.

And according to some, a large chunk of Bitcoin is under the control of the pseudonymous Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto. “Satoshi’s coins alone make up for more than 5%,” claims Quantum Economics founder Mati Greenspan in an interview with Cointelegraph.

And a significant part of circulating Bitcoin has already been lost. According to Coincover, a crypto insurance company, approximately 4 million Bitcoin is no longer in circulation because of lost access.

According to Greenspan, however, there may be hope in the future: "Over time, the ownership of Bitcoin is designed to get more distributed. For fiat, the opposite tends to happen.”