Visualising Global Wealth Inequalities

Global inequality is one of the core themes in the Global Development option within A-level sociology, and visual infographics are a useful way of making global inequalities easier to understand.

This post focuses on global wealth inequalities.

Details of how wealth is measured are included at the bottom of this post.

The Distribution of Wealth by Country

Global Private Household Wealth stood at $400 trillion in June 2020 according to Credit Suisse’s latest 2020 Global Wealth Report.

(This was almost 9% increase on the previous year, and continued a long term trend of increasing wealth over the last two decades.)

If this wealth were distributed evenly, each individual adult in the world would have a total net worth of almost $80 000. However, the distribution is far from equal!

The map below shows the median net private wealth per household in different countries in 2019, according to Credit Suisse.

From the figure we can see that generally:

  • North America, Western Europe and Australian households have an average wealth of over $100 000.
  • Brazil, China and Russia (three of the BRIC nations) have an average household wealth of between $25 000 to $100 000
  • Much of Asia and Latin American and North Africa have an average household wealth of between $5000 to $25 000
  • Most of Sub Saharan Africa and Afghanistan have an average household wealth of less than $5000.

NB – you can look at practically any map of any development indicator (health/ education/ peacefulness etc.) and you’ll find that poor health, low levels of education and high levels of conflict are correlated with low levels of wealth. There are some notable exceptions, but as a general rule, low levels of household wealth means poor social development!

(For example, one notable exception is the USA which is very wealthy but severely socially underdeveloped, possibly because of such high levels of relative poverty within the country)

Global Wealth by Country

The infographic below by Visual Capitalist (link below) shows us the amount of wealth per country:

Top wealthiest countries

Visual Capitalist also produced the following table:

RankCountryRegionTotal Wealth ($B, 2019)% Global Share
#1🇺🇸 United StatesNorth America$105,99029.4%
#2🇨🇳 ChinaChina$63,82717.7%
#3🇯🇵 JapanAsia-Pacific$24,9926.9%
#4🇩🇪 GermanyEurope$14,6604.1%
#5🇬🇧 United KingdomEurope$14,3414.0%
#6🇫🇷 FranceEurope$13,7293.8%
#7🇮🇳 IndiaIndia$12,6143.5%
#8🇮🇹 ItalyEurope$11,3583.1%
#9🇨🇦 CanadaNorth America$8,5732.4%
#10🇪🇸 SpainEurope$7,7722.2%
#11🇰🇷 South KoreaAsia-Pacific$7,3022.0%
#12🇦🇺 AustraliaAsia-Pacific$7,2022.0%
#13🇹🇼 TaiwanAsia-Pacific$4,0621.1%
#14🇨🇭 SwitzerlandEurope$3,8771.1%
#15🇳🇱 NetherlandsEurope$3,7191.0%
All Other Countries$56,58515.7%
Global Total$360,603100.0%
Top 15 wealthiest countries.

The above table is kind of useful, when you see that the USA controls almost a quarter of the world’s wealth, but with only around 4% of the world’s population, that alone can give you a sense of the inequality, especially when it’s leading China in P2 whose population is more than double that of the United States.

NB – What country wealth statistics don’t show is how equally (or unequally in the case of America) wealth is distributed in a country, which is something we will consider later.

The Global Wealth Pyramid

A second visualisation Credit Suisse Produce is the global wealth pyramid

The Global Wealth Pyramid

This pyramid shows us that:

  • The top 1% of the population, or just 52 million people (those worth more than $1 million) control 43.4% of the world’s wealth
  • The next 11.4%, or 590 million people (those worth from $100 000 to $1 million) control 40.5% o the world’s wealth
  • The next 34%, or 1.7 billion people (those worth from $10 000 to $100 000) control 14.7% of the world’s wealth
  • The poorest 53%, or 2.7 billion people (those worth less than $10 000) control only 1.4% of the world’s wealth.

The richest 1% own 43% of the world’s wealth

The visualisation below (courtesy of the global inequalities blog, link below) does a good of showing how few people control how much wealth, and how many people control so little:

Wealth controlled by Ultra High Net Worth Individuals

The graphic below zooms in closer on the very very wealthy. We see that those worth more than $30 million, just 0.002% of the world’s population control over 7% of the world’s wealth!

Definition of ‘Net Worth’ or Wealth

According to the Global Wealth Report, Net worth, or “wealth,” is the value of financial assets plus real assets (principally housing) owned by households, minus their debts.

This figure includes the net value of all the assets a household owns if sold and their private pension fund assets. The figure does not include any state entitlements/ benefits or state debts.

Discussion Question:

What is the best way to visualise global wealth inequalities?

Sources

  • Credit Suisse: Global Wealth Report 2020, linked above
  • Global Inequalities blog – does a nice job visualising some of the stats in the Credit Suisse Report. NB the stats above are from the 2019 report, but that’s not too long ago and I like them!
  • Visualcapitalist – produced the excellent football like visualisation of wealth inequalities by country!

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