Thursday, November 24, 2016

Top 0.1% Of American Households Hold Same Wealth As Bottom 90%

The US has a serious inequality problem according to a huge study by Credit Suisse: The top 0.1% of households now hold about the same amount of wealth as the bottom 90%. The Gini coefficient is a measurement of the income distribution within a country that aims to show the gap between the rich and the poor. The number ranges from zero to one, with zero representing perfect equality (everyone has the same income) and one representing perfect inequality (one person earns the entire country’s income and everyone else has nothing). A higher Gini coefficient means greater inequality. Developed-market economies such as those in Germany, France, and Sweden tend to have a higher GDP per capita and lower Gini coefficients. On the flip side, emerging-market economies in countries like Russia, Brazil, and South Africa tend to have a lower GDP per capita but a higher Gini coefficient.

The US, however, is a big outlier. Its GDP per capita is on par with developed European countries like Switzerland and Norway, but its Gini coefficient is in the same tier as Russia’s and China’s. On a global scale just 0.7% of the world's adult population owns almost half of the world's wealth, while the bottom 73% have less than $10,000 each. The 3.5 billion adults with wealth below $10,000 account for 2.4% of global wealth. In contrast, the 33 million millionaires comprise less than 1% of the adult population, but own 46% of household wealth. The past year saw a slight increase in the number of US dollar millionaires and high net worth individuals, with Japan the main beneficiary due to appreciation of the yen. 

The top tiers of the wealth pyramid – covering individuals with net worth above $100,000 – comprised 5% of all adults at the turn of the century. The proportion rose rapidly until the financial crisis, but has remained quite stable since that time. It currently comprises 8.2% of the global total, exactly the same as in mid-2015. The US, home to 41% of the world's millionaires, dominates the wealth league tables, while the UK had a terrible year in dollar terms. Britain lost by far the greatest number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals – those with more than $50 million – down 700 to 4,700. The UK also lost the most amount of millionaires, down by 422,000 to 2,225,000 people. Because the data is denominated in dollars, the pound's 18% collapse after the vote to leave the European Union will have driven a lot of the change.