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The Geography of the Global Super-Rich


  • Florida, Richard

    () (University of Toronto & New York University)

  • Mellander, Charlotta

    () (Jönköping University & Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies (CESIS))


Over the past decade or so, there has been increasing concern over rising inequality and the growth of the 1 percent of super-rich people who sit atop the global economy. While studies have charted the super-rich by industry and nation, there is very little research on their location by city or metro area. Our research uses detailed data from Forbes (2015) on the world’s billionaires to test a series of hypotheses about the location of the super-rich across the world’s cities and metro areas. We find that the super-rich are concentrated in a small number of metros around the world and that their location is primarily related to the size of metros: Large metros offer more people bigger markets, more diversified industries and more opportunity that help produce and attract billionaires. The location of the super-rich is more modestly associated with living standards (measured as economic output per capita) and less so with the presence of finance and tech industries, and city competitiveness. Their location is not related to quality of life, which is somewhat surprising in light of the level of mobility the super-rich enjoy, as well as research that finds that affluent and talented people are attracted to higher quality, higher amenity places.

Suggested Citation

  • Florida, Richard & Mellander, Charlotta, 2017. "The Geography of the Global Super-Rich," Working Paper Series in Economics and Institutions of Innovation 448, Royal Institute of Technology, CESIS - Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:cesisp:0448

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Edward L. Glaeser, Jed Kolko, and Albert Saiz, 2001. "Consumer city," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 1(1), pages 27-50, January.
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    3. Caroline Freund & Sarah Oliver, 2016. "The Origins of the Superrich: The Billionaire Characteristics Database," Working Paper Series WP16-1, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
    4. Caroline Freund & Sarah Oliver, 2016. "Rich People Poor Countries: The Rise of Emerging-Market Tycoons and their Mega Firms," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 7038, October.
    5. Roback, Jennifer, 1982. "Wages, Rents, and the Quality of Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(6), pages 1257-1278, December.
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    7. Sergei Guriev & Andrei Rachinsky, 2005. "The Role of Oligarchs in Russian Capitalism," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 131-150, Winter.
    8. Richard Florida & Tim Gulden & Charlotta Mellander, 2008. "The rise of the mega-region," Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, Cambridge Political Economy Society, vol. 1(3), pages 459-476.
    9. Steven N. Kaplan & Joshua D. Rauh, 2013. "Family, Education, and Sources of Wealth among the Richest Americans, 1982-2012," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 158-162, May.
    10. David Albouy, 2008. "Are Big Cities Bad Places to Live? Estimating Quality of Life across Metropolitan Areas," NBER Working Papers 14472, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item


    Super-rich; billionaires; 1 percent; geography; size; quality of life; competitiveness; spatial division of labor;

    JEL classification:

    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • R12 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Size and Spatial Distributions of Regional Economic Activity; Interregional Trade (economic geography)

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