Global billionaire wealth shot up by 24% to a record $9.2 trillion last year, and the billionaire population increased by 15% to 2,754 individuals, surpassing the previous peak of 2,473 in 2015, Wealth-X, a wealth information and insight business, reported this week.
This represented a big rise over 2016, when the billionaire population decreased by 3.1% to 2,397 individuals and their combined wealth fell by 3.7% to $7.4 trillion.
Last year, the number of female billionaires rose by 18% to 321, outpacing the 14.5% growth in the male billionaire population and increasing women’s share of the global billionaire population to 11.7%.
In addition, Wealth-X noted a steady increase in the number of female billionaires whose net worth can be attributed to both inheritance and self-made wealth creation, implying a greater degree of risk-taking entrepreneurialism.
According to the census, 56.8% of global billionaires are self-made, 13.2% inherited their wealth and 30% built their fortunes in part on inherited wealth.
Wealth-X said strong equity market performance and relatively stable exchange rates against the U.S. dollar drove growth in billionaire wealth globally last year.
The global billionaire population expanded at a healthy rate across all regions in 2017, led by Asia/Pacific’s 29%, well ahead of 11% expansion in the Americas and 9% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
According to the census, Asia’s total billionaire population now stands at 784 individuals, for the first time overtaking North America’s 727 billionaires.
Asia/Pacific billionaires’ wealth increased by almost 50%, a huge turnaround following modest declines in 2016. Asia/Pacific wealth outperformed that of the Americas, which increased by 22%, and EMEA, which increased by 12%.
Although the U.S. continued its dominance last year, six of the top 10 countries recorded faster growth than the U.S. in their respective billionaire populations, and four enjoyed a stronger pace of expansion in their collective billionaire wealth.
The U.K. was the only country in the top 10 to experience a decline in both billionaire numbers and combined net worth.
Here are the top five countries in number of billionaires and total wealth and percentage changes from 2016:
- U.S.: 680 billionaires (9.7%); $3.2 trillion (22.7%)
- China: 338 billionaires (35.7%); $1.1 trillion (61.2%)
- Germany: 152 billionaires (17.8%); $466 billion (26.5%)
- India: 104 billionaires (22.4%); $299 billion (50.3%)
- Switzerland: 99 billionaires (15.1%); $265 billion (17.4%)
New York remained the world’s top billionaire city in 2017, preferred by those seeking a luxury blend of finance, culture, commerce, shopping and real estate. The city has more billionaires than all but three countries in the world: China, Germany and India.
Following are the top five cities in 2017, with number of billionaires and change in number of individuals from the previous year:
- New York: 103 (+1)
- Hong Kong: 93 (+21)
- San Francisco: 74 (+14)
- Moscow: 69 (-2)
- London: 62 (no change)
Sixty-two percent of the billionaire population focused at least part of their philanthropic activity on education, funding scholarships, educational support and outreach programs, teacher training, higher education and more. These contributions accounted for 21% of total billionaire donations, according to Wealth-X.
Health-related issues followed, piquing the interest of 39% of billionaires who contributed in this area and receiving 14% of their philanthropic giving.
The new census found a growing trend among billionaires to give more. The number of individuals — billionaires, or those who would be billionaires if they were not giving away their wealth — who had signed the Giving Pledge rose from 40 signatories based in the U.S. in 2010 to 175 signatories in 22 countries by April this year.
Wealth-X forecasted that the potential pledged value could go as high as $600 billion by 2022.
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