Featured Research

The Geography of the Global Super-Rich

Recent years have seen increasing apprehension over rising inequality and the growth of the so-called “1 percent.” For all the concern expressed about the rise of the global super-rich, there is very little empirical research related to them, especially regarding their location across the cities and metro areas. Our research uses detailed data from Forbes on the more than 1,800 billionaires across the globe to examine the location of the super-rich across the world’s cities and metro areas. Our key findings are as follows:

  • The super-rich are concentrated in a small number of metros around the world. The top 50 metros account for nearly two-thirds of all billionaires, while making up just 7 percent of the world’s population. The top 20 account for more than 40 percent, while making up just 3.5 percent of the world’s population. And just the top 10 account for more than 30 percent, while making up less than 2 percent of the world’s population.
  • Super-rich wealth is even more concentrated. The top 10 metros are home to 36 percent of total billionaire wealth, the top 20 account for nearly half and the top 50 hold over 70 percent of billionaire wealth. The United States has five metros in the top 10 and nine in the top 20 metros for billionaire wealth.
  • New York tops the list with $537 billion or 7.6 percent of all billionaire wealth. San Francisco is second with $365 billion or 5.2 percent; Moscow third with $290 billion; Hong Kong fourth with $274 billion; and London is fifth with $213 billion. Los Angeles, Beijing, Paris, Seattle, and Dallas each have between $150 and $175 billion in billionaire wealth.
  • All told, the United States is home to almost a third of the world’s billionaires; China follows with 12.2 percent; India and Russia are next with 4.5 percent each; and Germany has 4.3 percent.
  • The geographic distribution of billionaires is spiky; it follows from the size and economic and financial power of global cities. That said, many of the world’s most competitive and financially powerful cities actually have fewer billionaires than their economic and financial power would suggest, while smaller places and some of the world’s most livable cities have relatively more billionaires than their economic size or competitiveness and financial power would predict.
  • There is a substantial difference in the geography of self-made versus inherited billionaires. Metros in the United States and Asia, especially China, have the largest shares of self-made billionaires, while those in Europe and South America have more inherited wealth.
  • The leading industries for super-rich wealth are Fashion and Retail (with 13 percent of total billionaire wealth); Technology and Telecom ($989 billion), Finance and Investment ($962 billion), Energy and Resources ($623 billion), and Automotive and Manufacturing ($561 billion). Milan tops the list on Fashion and Retail, followed by New York, Paris, and London, all well-established fashion capitals. The San Francisco Bay Area tops the list on Technology and Telecom, followed by Beijing, Los Angeles, Bangalore, Seoul, Shenzhen, and Seattle. New York tops the list on Finance and Investment, followed by the San Francisco Bay Area, Moscow, Los Angeles, and Miami.
  • The gap between the super-rich and the rest of society is staggering, based on our measure of the Super-Rich Wealth Gap, which compares billionaire wealth to the economic situation of the average person based on metro economic output per person. This gap is the most pronounced in the poorer and less developed cities of the Global South like Bangalore, Mumbai, Mexico City, Manila, Jakarta, Delhi, Bangkok, Hangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Santiago. But, it is also quite pronounced in advanced cities like Seattle, Dallas, Paris, Stockholm, Toronto, and Tokyo.

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