The World Distribution of Household Wealth

James B. Davies, Susanna Sandström, Anthony Shorrocks and Edward N. Wolff

in Personal Wealth from a Global Perspective

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199548880
Published online January 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720765 | DOI:

Series: WIDER Studies in Development Economics

The World Distribution of Household Wealth

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There has been much recent research on the world distribution of income, but also growing recognition of the importance of other contributions to well‐being, including those of household wealth. Wealth is important in providing security and opportunity, particularly in poorer countries that lack full social safety nets and adequate facilities for borrowing and lending. This chapter finds, however, that it is precisely in the latter countries that household wealth is the lowest, both in absolute and relative terms. Globally, wealth is more concentrated than income, on both an individual and a national basis. Roughly 30 per cent of world wealth is found in each of North America, Europe, and the rich Asian‐Pacific countries. These areas account for virtually all world's top 1% of wealth holders. On an official exchange‐rate basis, India accounts for about a quarter of the adults in the bottom three global wealth deciles, while China provides about a third of those in the fourth to eighth deciles. If current growth trends continue, India, China, and the transition countries will move up in the global distribution, and the lower deciles will be increasingly dominated by countries in Africa, Latin American, and poor parts of the Asian‐Pacific region. Thus wealth may continue to be lowest in areas where it is needed the most.

Keywords: wealth; net worth; personal assets; wealth inequality; households; balance sheets; portfolios

Chapter.  9879 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth

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