IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Why Some Countries Have More Billionaires Than Others? (Explaining Variations in Billionaire Intensity of GDP)


  • Popov, Vladimir


The list of billionaires and their wealth published by Forbes magazine in the US allows to compute the number of billionaires per unit of GDP and the ratio of their wealth to GDP for various countries. These measures of billionaire intensity vary greatly - sometimes by one or even two orders of magnitude. The paper offers descriptive statistics of geographical distribution of billionaires and a preliminary analysis of factors determining the country variations of billionaire intensity indicators. Rich and well developed tax havens, like Monaco, Hong Kong, Guernsey, Cyprus, Lichtenstein, attract a lot of billionaires, but other less developed countries with zero or low personal income taxes (Persian Gulf states – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, UAE) do not have many billionaires. Unsurprisingly, happiness index, especially such determinant of the index as healthy life expectancy, is a strong predictor of the concentration of wealth in particular countries. Surprisingly, other determinants of happiness index, such as per capita income and social support, do not matter much, whereas personal freedom does matter, but has the “wrong” sign (the lower is personal freedom, the higher the billionaire intensity). Another unexpected result is the negative relationship between billionaire intensity and inequality of income distribution as measured by Gini coefficient derived from household surveys: billionaires seem to prefer countries with lower income inequalities. The presence of billionaires, though rises income inequality at the very top by definition, does not increase general income inequality. Long term trends in the billionaire intensity, appear to mirror changes in within the country income inequalities as measured by gini coefficient: increase before the First World War, decrease until the 1980s and then the new rise.

Suggested Citation

  • Popov, Vladimir, 2018. "Why Some Countries Have More Billionaires Than Others? (Explaining Variations in Billionaire Intensity of GDP)," MPRA Paper 87119, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:87119

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: original version
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Popov, Vladimir, 2014. "Mixed Fortunes: An Economic History of China, Russia, and the West," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198703631.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Income inequalities; billionaire intensity; tax rates; happiness index; murders;

    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:87119. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Joachim Winter). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.