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A teenager wears torn rubber boots in a muddy local market in Bac Ha, Viet Nam. As of 2005 figures, half the world population—more than 3 billion people–is estimated to live on less than USD 2.50 a day. Bac Ha, Viet Nam. UN Photo/Kibae Park.

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The World Distribution of Household Wealth

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.
Publisher:
UNU-WIDER
Series:
WIDER Discussion Paper
Volume:
2008/03
Title:
The World Distribution of Household Wealth
Authors:
James B. Davies, Susanna Sandström, Anthony Shorrocks, and Edward N. Wolff
Publication date:
February 2008
ISBN 13 Print:
9789292300647
ISBN 13 Web:
9789292300654
Copyright holder:
© UNU-WIDER
Copyright year:
2008
Keywords:
wealth, net worth, personal assets, wealth inequality, households, balance sheets, portfolios
JEL:
D31, E01, E21, O10
Project:
Personal Assets from a Global Perspective
Sponsor:
The governments of Denmark (Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Finland (Ministry for Foreign Affairs), Norway (Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Sweden (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency—Sida) and the United Kingdom (Department for International Development).
Format:
online and printed copies