Wealth per Adult

2014


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All-time high

While net worth per adult has reached a new all-time high of USD 56,000 worldwide, this average value masks considerable variation across countries and regions, as is evident in Figure 6. The richest nations, with wealth per adult over USD 100,000, are found in North America, Western Europe and among the rich Asia-Pacific and Middle Eastern countries. They are headed by Switzerland, which was the first – and so far only – country in which average wealth has exceeded USD 500,000. Dollar appreciation, combined with strong equity performance during the past year, resulted in another significant increase, raising Swiss wealth per adult to a new world record of USD 587,000. Australia (USD 431,000) retains second place by a comfortable margin, followed by Norway (USD 359,000), but the strong performance by the United States (USD 348,000) moves it up to fourth place, swapping positions with Sweden (USD 333,000). France (USD 317,000) and the United Kingdom (USD 293,000) were the other countries which rose up among the top ten list, while Singapore (USD 287,000) moved three places in the opposite direction despite wealth per adult rising by USD 5,000.

The ranking by median wealth per adult favours countries with lower levels of wealth inequality and produces a somewhat different table. Australia (USD 225,000) tops the list, as it has for the past five years, far ahead of Belgium in second place with USD 173,000. Italy, France and the United Kingdom follow in turn with median wealth slightly above USD 130,000, then Switzerland, Japan and Singapore in a narrow band around USD 110,000. Median wealth rose this year in Germany and the United States to USD 54,000 and USD 53,000 respectively, but this still lags their usual comparators by a wide margin.

The rich country group with wealth per adult above USD 100,000 has had a very stable membership over time. Despite the overall rise in world wealth, only Greece has managed to squeeze across the threshold with net worth now averaging USD 111,400. Malta has been vulnerable to demotion in recent years, but has consolidated its position in the rich country group with wealth per adult now amounting to USD 114,000, a rise this year of USD 7,600.

Intermediate wealth

The ‟intermediate wealth” group portrayed in Figure 6 covers countries with mean wealth in the USD 25,000 to USD 100,000 range. Some European Union (EU) countries (Portugal and Slovenia) are situated at the top end of the band, while more recent EU entrants (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) tend to be found lower down. The intermediate wealth group also encompasses a number of Middle Eastern nations (Bahrain, Oman, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia) and important emerging markets in Asia (Korea, Malaysia) and Latin America (Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay).

Frontier wealth

The ‟frontier wealth” range from USD 5,000 to 25,000 per adult covers the largest area of the world and most of the heavily populated countries including China, Russia, Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, the Philippines and Turkey. The band also contains many transition nations outside the EU (Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Mongolia and Serbia), most of Latin America (Argentina, Ecuador, El Salvador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela) and many countries bordering the Mediterranean (Algeria, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and West Bank and Gaza). South Africa was once briefly a member of the intermediate wealth group, but now resides in this category alongside other leading sub-Saharan nations: Angola, Botswana, Equatorial Guinea and Namibia. Sri Lanka dropped below the USD 5,000 threshold this year, although its regional neighbors Laos and Thailand remain.

The final group of countries with wealth below USD 5,000 is heavily concentrated in central Africa and south Asia. This group encompasses all of central Africa apart from Angola, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. India is the most notable member of the Asia contingent, which also includes Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, although Vietnam has been close to moving up for some time. Languishing in the middle of this wealth range are also three countries bordering the EU: Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine.

Distribution of wealth across individuals and wealth inequality

To determine how global wealth is distributed across households and individuals – rather than regions or countries – we combine our data on the level of household wealth across countries with information on the pattern of wealth distribution within countries. Our estimates for mid-2014 indicate that once debts have been subtracted, a person needs only USD 3,250 to be among the wealthiest half of world citizens. However, more than USD 73,000 is required to be a member of the top 10% of global wealth holders, and USD 776,000 to belong to the top 1%. Taken together, the bottom half of the global population own less than 1% of total wealth. In sharp contrast, the richest decile hold 87% of the world’s wealth, and the top percentile alone account for 48.2% of global assets.

This year, we are breaking new ground by reporting annual values for median wealth and other distributional indicators back to the year 2000. Our estimates indicate that global median wealth (i.e. the minimum net worth of the top half of global adults) has decreased every year since 2010 (see Figure 7), a surprising result given the robust rise in mean wealth. In contrast, the minimum wealth of the top decile has changed little since 2009, while USD 163,000 more is needed now to belong to the top percentile compared to 2008 when the minimum requirement was USD 613,000. These findings hint at rising global wealth inequality in recent years. However, our results also suggest that the reverse trend happened in the run up to the financial crisis, with median wealth rising faster than the minimum wealth of the top percentile groups in the period from 2000 to 2007. We explore these issues in more detail in chapter 4 of this report.

2013


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