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Estimating the Level and Distribution of Global Household Wealth

We provide the first estimate of the level and distribution of global household wealth. Mean assets and debts within countries are measured, partly or wholly, for 38 countries using household balance sheet and survey data centred on the year 2000. Determinants of mean financial assets, non-financial assets, and liabilities are studied empirically, and the results are used to impute values to countries lacking wealth data. Household wealth per adult is US$43,494 in PPP terms, and ranges regionally from US$11,655 in Africa to US$193,147 in North America. Data on the shape of the household distribution of wealth for 20 countries, accounting for 59 per cent of the world’s population and, we estimate, 84 per cent of its wealth are used to establish patterns of wealth inequality within countries. Imputations are again performed for countries lacking wealth data, on the basis of the observed relation between wealth and income distribution for the 20 countries with data. The Gini coefficient for the global distribution of wealth is 0.804, and the share of the top 10 per cent is 71 per cent. Wealth of US$8,325 is needed to be in the top half of the distribution, and US$517,601 is needed to be in the top one per cent. Between-country differences in wealth are two-thirds of global inequality according to the Gini coefficient, indicating a larger role for within-country inequality than in the case of income according to recent estimates.
Publisher:
UNU-WIDER
Series:
WIDER Research Paper
Volume:
2007/77
Title:
Estimating the Level and Distribution of Global Household Wealth
Authors:
James B. Davies, Susanna Sandström, Anthony Shorrocks, and Edward N. Wolff
Publication date:
November 2007
ISSN Web:
1810-2611
ISBN 13 Web:
9789292300302
Copyright holder:
© UNU-WIDER
Copyright year:
2007
Keywords:
wealth, net worth, personal assets, inequality, households, portfolios, balance sheets
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
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