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The World Distribution of Household Wealth

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  • Davies, James B.
  • Sandstrom, Susanna
  • Shorrocks, Anthony
  • Wolff, Edward N.

Abstract

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. We find, however, that it is precisely in the latter countries where household wealth is the lowest, both in absolute and relative terms. Globally, wealth is more concentrated than income both on an individual and 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 of the world?s top 1 per cent 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.

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File URL: http://www.wider.unu.edu/stc/repec/pdfs/rp2008/dp2008-03.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER) in its series Working Paper Series with number DP2008/03.

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Length: 26 pages
Date of creation: 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:unu:wpaper:dp2008-03

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

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  1. François Bourguignon & Christian Morrisson, 2001. "Inequality among World Citizens : 1820-1992," DELTA Working Papers 2001-18, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  2. Guriev, Sergei & Rachinsky, Andrei, 2006. "The Evolution of Personal Wealth in the Former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe," Working Paper Series RP2006/120, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  3. James B. Davies & Susanna Sandström & Anthony Shorrocks & Edward N. Wolff, 2007. "Estimating the Level and Distribution of Global Household Wealth," University of Western Ontario, Economic Policy Research Institute Working Papers 20075, University of Western Ontario, Economic Policy Research Institute.
  4. Davies, James B. & Sandstrom, Susanna & Shorrocks, Anthony & Wolff, Edward N., 2008. "The World Distribution of Household Wealth," Working Paper Series DP2008/03, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  5. Shorrocks, Anthony & Wan, Guanghua, 2008. "Ungrouping Income Distributions: Synthesising Samples for Inequality and Poverty Analysis," Working Paper Series RP2008/16, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  6. Andrea Brandolini & Luigi Cannari & Giovanni D'Alessio & Ivan Faiella, 2004. "Household Wealth Distribution in Italy in the 1990s," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 530, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
  7. Branko Milanovic, 2002. "True World Income Distribution, 1988 and 1993: First Calculation Based on Household Surveys Alone," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(476), pages 51-92, January.
  8. Ohlsson, Henry & Roine, Jesper & Waldenstrom, Daniel, 2006. "Long-Run Changes in the Concentration of Wealth: An Overview of Recent Findings," Working Paper Series RP2006/103, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  9. Subramanian, S. & Jayaraj, D., 2006. "The Distribution of Household Wealth in India," Working Paper Series RP2006/116, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  10. Yemtsov, Ruslan, 2007. "Housing Privatization and Household Wealth in Transition," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  11. Torche, Florencia & Spilerman, Seymour, 2006. "Household Wealth in Latin America," Working Paper Series RP2006/114, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  12. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "Income Inequality In The United States, 1913-1998," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 1-39, February.
  13. Li, Shi & Zhao, Renwei, 2007. "Changes in the Distribution of Wealth in China 1995-2002," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
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