Analyzing Global and US Wealth

Analyzing Global and US Wealth

Timothy Taylor 30/10/2018 3

Wealth is not income.

Income is the inflow measured over a period of time, like a pay period or a calendar year.

Wealth is the accumulation of financial and real assets, minus debts. The total in retirement account and the equity in your house are wealth, but they are not income.

The Credit Suisse Research Institute provides some perspectives in its recently published Global Wealth Report 2018, 

"Measured in current US dollars, total global wealth rose from USD 117 trillion in 2000 to 317 trillion in mid-2018, a rise of USD 200 trillion, equivalent to roughly 2.5 times global GDP." Global wealth works out to $63,100 per adult.

Along with its overview of global wealth, the report has discussions of the distribution of global wealth, both overall and across regions, and short reports for the growth of wealth in countries.

Here's the "global wealth pyramid." At the bottom, about 3.2 billion adults, roughly two-thirds of the adult population of the world, have 1.9% of the total wealth.

At the top, there are 42 million adults or 0.8% of the world population who have more than $1 million in wealth, and as a group they hold 44.8% of total world wealth. 

The US economy, with its combination of high incomes and a large number of people, has many more milliionaires and ultra-high-worth individuals than other countries.

Here's a figure showing the number of people with over $50 million in wealth across countries.

In different countries, what share of wealth is held by the top 1% of wealthholders? US wealth is more concentrated than Germany or China, but less so than Brazil, India, or France.

It's important to keep wealth numbers in some perspective. Being an ultra-high-net-worth person with more than $50 million in wealth is very rich indeed, wherever you live.

But for Americans, for those in their 50s or older who have a lot of equity in their homes in parts of the US where real estate is pricey, and who also have accumulated a chunk of money in their retirement account during several decades of working wealth, exceeding $1 million in accumulated wealth is not an extraordinary event.

I'll finish here with a couple of images of wealth patterns in the US.


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  • Liam Seeley

    The wealth concentration, geographically-speaking, is more or less uneven.

  • Gareth Cleveland

    Wealthier countries follow a feedback loop of sorts in that their wealth allows them to invest more in domestic products, services, and international trade that serve to increase net wealth. Meanwhile, less wealthy countries don't have the financial backing to do so, preventing them from advancing as quickly and as much as some of the other countries.

  • Terrance Ford

    Interesting analysis

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Timothy Taylor

Global Economy Expert

Timothy Taylor is an American economist. He is managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, a quarterly academic journal produced at Macalester College and published by the American Economic Association. Taylor received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Haverford College and a master's degree in economics from Stanford University. At Stanford, he was winner of the award for excellent teaching in a large class (more than 30 students) given by the Associated Students of Stanford University. At Minnesota, he was named a Distinguished Lecturer by the Department of Economics and voted Teacher of the Year by the master's degree students at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. Taylor has been a guest speaker for groups of teachers of high school economics, visiting diplomats from eastern Europe, talk-radio shows, and community groups. From 1989 to 1997, Professor Taylor wrote an economics opinion column for the San Jose Mercury-News. He has published multiple lectures on economics through The Teaching Company. With Rudolph Penner and Isabel Sawhill, he is co-author of Updating America's Social Contract (2000), whose first chapter provided an early radical centrist perspective, "An Agenda for the Radical Middle". Taylor is also the author of The Instant Economist: Everything You Need to Know About How the Economy Works, published by the Penguin Group in 2012. The fourth edition of Taylor's Principles of Economics textbook was published by Textbook Media in 2017.


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