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Credit Suisse Wealth Report: There Are More Poor People In America Than China

Middle-class wealth has grown at a slower pace than wealth at the top end; This has reversed the pre-crisis trend, which saw the share of middle-class wealth remaining fairly stable over time.

 


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There’re more poor people in America than there are in China. No, really, this is true, when measuring by wealth. there’s no one in China in the bottom 10 percent of the world’s population by wealth. And yet there’s some 10 percent of those global poor in North America, and another 20 percent or so in Europe. So, yes, as Forbes says, it really is true that there’re more poor people in America (and Europe) than there are in China.

In 64 pages of its sixth edition, the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report offers a comprehensive portrait of global wealth, covering all regions and countries, and all parts of the wealth spectrum, from the very base of the wealth pyramid to ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs).

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“We believe that an inclusive picture of wealth across regions and incomes is essential to the understanding of wealth creation and its implications on consumption, retirement savings, and asset allocation.”

Today, wealth is still predominantly concentrated in Europe and the United States.

However, the growth of wealth in emerging markets has been most impressive, including a fivefold rise in China since the beginning of the century. The fact that financial assets accounted for most of the wealth growth in China highlights the relevance of financial markets in the creation of wealth, but also points to short-term vulnerabilities of wealth to financial shocks.

Stock prices in China gained over 150% between June 2014 and mid-June 2015, only to decline sharply thereafter. At the end of June 2015, the date on which our wealth estimates are based, the stock market had weakened by over 20% from its peak.

When this report went into press at the end of September, it was down an additional 25%. At the very top of the pyramid, there are now over 120, 000 UHNWIs, each worth more than USD 50 million.

The fortunes created in China led to the rapid emergence of a sizable UHNW population, which now makes up 8% of global UHNWIs. Further below the spectrum, the group of millionaires still only accounts for 0.7% of population, but owns 45.2% of global wealth. While the distribution of wealth is skewed towards the wealthy, the considerable economic importance of the base and middle sections should not be overlooked.

Together, these sections account for USD 39 trillion in wealth, driving a significant part of demand for a wide range of consumer goods and financial services.

“Every year, we try to contribute to the household wealth debate by extending our analysis to a special topic of interest. We devote this year’s report to middle-class wealth. Notably, we find that middle-class wealth has grown at a slower pace than wealth at the top end. This has reversed the pre-crisis trend, which saw the share of middle-class wealth remaining fairly stable over time. These results reinforce our findings from last year’s edition of this report, which argued that wealth inequality had widened in most countries in the years after the 2008 crisis. Still, the middle class will continue to expand in emerging economies overall, with a lion’s share of that growth to occur in Asia. As a result, we will see changing consumption patterns as well as societal changes as, historically, the middle class has acted as an agent of stability and prosperity.

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