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The Origins of the Superrich: The Billionaire Characteristics Database

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Listed:
  • Caroline Freund

    () (Peterson Institute for International Economics)

  • Sarah Oliver

    () (Peterson Institute for International Economics)

Abstract

This working paper presents a new dataset on the sources of billionaire wealth and uses it to describe changes in extreme wealth in the United States, Europe, and other advanced countries. The data classify wealth as either self-made or inherited and identify the company and industry from which it comes. Among self-made billionaires, individuals are further classified as company founders, executives, politically-connected, or in finance. Data analysis shows that the superrich in the United States are more dynamic than in Europe. Just over half of European billionaires inherited their fortunes, as compared with one-third in the United States. The median age of a company of a European billionaire is nearly 20 years older than that of an American billionaire. Traditional sectors explain more than half of the rise in wealth in Europe; the financial sector and technology-related sectors together are largely responsible for the rise in US wealth. There is some evidence that rents are higher in the United States than Europe, as not only is the number of US billionaires expanding rapidly, but US billionaires are also getting richer on average over time, especially when wealth is connected to resources, nontradables, or finance.

Suggested Citation

  • Caroline Freund & Sarah Oliver, 2016. "The Origins of the Superrich: The Billionaire Characteristics Database," Working Paper Series WP16-1, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:iie:wpaper:wp16-1
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    File URL: https://piie.com/publications/working-papers/origins-superrich-billionaire-characteristics-database
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Anders Klevmarken, & Joseph P. Lupton & Frank P. Stafford, 2003. "Wealth Dynamics in the 1980s and 1990s: Sweden and the United States," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(2).
    2. Steven N. Kaplan & Joshua Rauh, 2013. "It's the Market: The Broad-Based Rise in the Return to Top Talent," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 35-56, Summer.
    3. Bagchi, Sutirtha & Svejnar, Jan, 2015. "Does wealth inequality matter for growth? The effect of billionaire wealth, income distribution, and poverty," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 505-530.
    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.
    5. 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.
    6. Erik Hurst & Ming Ching Luoh & Frank P. Stafford, 1998. "The Wealth Dynamics of American Families, 1984-94," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 29(1), pages 267-338.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Anand, Sudhir & Segal, Paul, 2017. "Who Are the Global Top 1%?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 111-126.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    wealth inequality; top 1 percent; extreme wealth; crony capitalism;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries
    • P48 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Political Economy; Legal Institutions; Property Rights; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Regional Studies

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