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The Level and Distribution of Global Household Wealth

  • James B. Davies
  • Susanna Sandström
  • Anthony Shorrocks
  • Edward N. Wolff

We estimate the level and distribution of global household wealth. The levels of assets and debts for 39 countries are measured using household balance sheet and survey data centred on the year 2000. The determinants of mean financial assets, non-financial assets, and liabilities are studied empirically, and the results used to estimate average wealth holdings for countries lacking direct evidence. Data on the pattern of household distribution of wealth are assembled for 20 countries, which together account for 59 per cent of the global population and 75 per cent of global wealth. The observed relation between wealth and income distribution in these 20 countries allows estimates of wealth inequality to be produced for many other nations. Combining the figures for individual countries reveals that net worth averaged US$44,024 per adult in PPP terms across the globe. Wealth of US$8,635 was needed to be in the top half of the global distribution, and US$518,364 to be in the top one per cent. The top 10 per cent owned 71 per cent of world wealth, and the Gini coefficient for the global distribution of wealth is estimated to be 0.802, indicating greater inequality than that observed in the global distribution of consumption or income.

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Article provided by Royal Economic Society in its journal The Economic Journal.

Volume (Year): 121 (2011)
Issue (Month): 551 (March)
Pages: 223-254

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Handle: RePEc:ecj:econjl:v:121:y:2011:i:551:p:223-254
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