Comparing the Wealth of U.S. Geographic Regions Over Time
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Comparing the Wealth of U.S. Geographic Regions Over Time

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Comparing the Wealth of U.S. Geographic Regions Over Time

Comparing the Wealth of U.S. Geographic Regions Over Time

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

Every year, the average American takes home about $51,600 in personal income.

Of course, what you make each year depends on factors like your job, work ethic, education, and personal circumstances – but it also varies significantly over geography.

The Geographical Wage Gap

Today’s chart uses data from the Brookings Institute, and it focuses on the geographical wage gap, or the difference in per capita income that exists between various U.S. regions.

Interestingly, it’s a gap that has historically narrowed over time.

Just after the Great Depression, income per capita in the Mideast was 50% higher than the average American, and roughly three times higher than in the Southeast. Over the next 50 years, this gap would continue to narrow until reaching its smallest differential by the mid-1980s.

In the last couple of decades, however, the geographical wage gap has shown signs of a potential reversal: per capita incomes in New England, Mideast, and Far West have been increasing relative to the average American wage, while other regions are remaining more stagnant.

The Vitality Index

Wages are just one factor in measuring prosperity, and the Brookings Institute has attempted to create a more well-rounded approach to this with the Vitality Index.

The Vitality Index is comprised of the following variables:

  • Median household income – 45%
  • Poverty rate – 24%
  • Life expectancy – 13%
  • Prime-age employment-to-population ratio – 9%
  • Housing vacancy rate – 5%
  • Unemployment rate – 4%

The following map is directly from the aforementioned report, and it shows the Vitality Index by county, using recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau:

Vitality Index

Which areas have seen the biggest increases and decreases in vitality?

The Great Lakes region, which relies heavily on manufacturing, has seen the most significant drop between 1980-2016, while the Mideast has seen the biggest rise over that same 26 year period.

Cost of Living

One fair point of objection to the analysis of the Vitality Index – or any measure of economic differences between geographic regions – is that cost of living is not taken directly into account.

Here is what the researchers had to say on this:

It would be reasonable to adjust median household income for cost of living, but we opted to not do this for two reasons. First, cost-of-living estimates that are comparable across places are not available for 1980. Second, cost of living may vary for reasons that are directly related to the county vitality we seek to measure. For example, a place with stronger labor demand or better local public goods could attract in-migration that contributes to higher housing prices. Finally, cost of living may reflect the amenity value of a place, and not simply inflated prices for the same goods and services.

No analysis is perfect, but the Vitality Index and historical data on per capita income are interesting to consider when framing any analysis on wages, prosperity, and economic inequality in America.

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Money

Ranked: The World’s Richest Billionaires Over the Past 10 Years

This visualization looks at the ballooning wealth and ranking of the top 10 billionaires over the past 10 years.

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Ranked: The World’s Richest Billionaires Over the Past 10 Years

The last decade has seen a number of changes in the world’s richest billionaires list.

For one, there are new faces at the top of the leaderboard that were never there before. One of the most obvious changes though, is that the richest billionaires have accumulated a lot more wealth in recent years.

Using annual data from Forbes on the richest billionaires, we’ve visualized the wealth and ranking of the top 10 billionaires over the past decade.

Who are the World’s Richest Billionaires?

While the pecking order has fluctuated, the leaderboard remains very exclusive. Out of a possible 10 spots, there are only 19 individuals that have made the list over the last decade.

Here’s the current list of richest billionaires in 2022, including when they first made the list (if in the last decade):

RankNameCountryNet Worth (2022)First Year on List*
#1Elon Musk🇺🇸 U.S.$219 billion2021
#2Jeff Bezos🇺🇸 U.S.$171 billion2016
#3Bernard Arnault🇫🇷 France$158 billion-
#4Bill Gates🇺🇸 U.S.$129 billion-
#5Warren Buffett🇺🇸 U.S.$118 billion-
#6Larry Page🇺🇸 U.S.$111 billion2019
#7Sergey Brin🇺🇸 U.S.$107 billion2021
#8Larry Ellison🇺🇸 U.S.$106 billion-
#9Steve Ballmer🇺🇸 U.S.$91 billion2020
#10Mukesh Ambani🇮🇳 India$91 billion-

*Billionaires with “-” first made the list at an earlier date. Example: Mukesh Ambani made the 2008 list.

Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist, Bill Gates, is a perennial presence at the top of these lists. Gates is currently at his lowest rank over this time period, but is still in fourth spot. The billionaire has pledged to give away nearly all of his fortune to the eponymously named Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

From 2018 to 2021, Jeff Bezos sat at the top of the world’s richest people ranking, only to be bumped out by Elon Musk. In 2020, Bezos became the first person to amass a $200 billion fortune after Amazon’s stock price surged during the pandemic. In recent months, Bezos’ net worth has taken a hit as Amazon’s share price has fallen back down to Earth.

Today, Elon Musk is the world’s richest person.

The Rich Get Richer

Over time, the median net worth of the richest billionaires has grown significantly.

YearMedian Net Worth of Top 10 Billionaires
2013$39 billion
2014$44 billion
2015$49 billion
2016$45 billion
2017$56 billion
2018$71 billion
2019$64 billion
2020$68 billion
2021$97 billion
2022$115 billion

Most fortunes are held in the form of business equity, real estate, and publicly-traded stocks—all asset classes that have benefited from the era of cheap money and ultra-low interest rates.

Over the decade period, the median net worth of the top 10 billionaires has nearly tripled from $39 billion to $115 billion.

In fact, the first billionaire to pass the $100 billion threshold was Jeff Bezos in 2018, when he took the top spot on the list from Bill Gates. However, now all but two on the top 10 wealthiest list are centibillionaires.

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Markets

All of the World’s Money and Markets in One Visualization (2022)

From the wealth held to billionaires to all debt in the global financial system, we look at the vast universe of money and markets in 2022.

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All of the World’s Money and Markets in One Visualization

The era of easy money is now officially over.

For 15 years, policymakers have tried to stimulate the global economy through money creation, zero interest-rate policies, and more recently, aggressive COVID fiscal stimulus.

With capital at near-zero costs over this stretch, investors started to place more value on cash flows in the distant future. Assets inflated and balance sheets expanded, and money inevitably chased more speculative assets like NFTs, crypto, or unproven venture-backed startups.

But the free money party has since ended, after persistent inflation prompted the sudden reversal of many of these policies. And as Warren Buffett says, it’s only when the tide goes out do you get to see “who’s been swimming naked.”

Measuring Money and Markets in 2022

Every time we publish this visualization, our common unit of measurement is a two-dimensional box with a value of $100 billion.

Even though you need many of these to convey the assets on the balance sheet of the U.S. Federal Reserve, or the private wealth held by the world’s billionaires, it’s quite amazing to think what actually fits within this tiny building block of measurement:

What fits in a $100 billion box?

Our little unit of measurement is enough to pay for the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, while also buying every team in the NHL and digging FTX out of its financial hole several times over.

Here’s an overview of all the items we have listed in this year’s visualization:

Asset categoryValueSourceNotes
SBF (Peak Net Worth)$26 billionBloombergNow sits at <$1B
Pro Sports Teams$340 billionForbesMajor pro teams in North America
Cryptocurrency$760 billionCoinMarketCapPeaked at $2.8T in 2021
Ukraine GDP$130 billionWorld BankComparable to GDP of Mississippi
Russia GDP$1.8 trillionWorld BankThe world's 11th largest economy
Annual Military Spending$2.1 trillionSIPRI2021 data
Physical currency$8.0 trillionBIS2020 data
Gold$11.5 trillionWorld Gold CouncilThere are 205,238 tonnes of gold in existence
Billionaires$12.7 trillionForbesSum of fortunes of all 2,668 billionaires
Central Bank Assets$28.0 trillionTrading EconomicsFed, BoJ, Bank of China, and Eurozone only
S&P 500$36.0 trillionSlickchartsNov 20, 2022
China GDP$17.7 trillionWorld Bank
U.S. GDP$23.0 trillionWorld Bank
Narrow Money Supply$49.0 trillionTrading EconomicsIncludes US, China, Euro Area, Japan only
Broad Money Supply $82.7 trillionTrading EconomicsIncludes US, China, Euro Area, Japan only
Global Equities$95.9 trillionWFELatest available 2022 data
Global Debt$300.1 trillionIIFQ2 2022
Global Real Estate$326.5 trillionSavills2020 data
Global Private Wealth$463.6 trillionCredit Suisse2022 report
Derivatives (Market)$12.4 trillionBIS
Derivatives (Notional)$600 trillionBIS

Has the Dust Settled Yet?

Through previous editions of our All the World’s Money and Markets visualization, we’ve created snapshots of the world’s assets and markets at different points in time.

For example, in our 2017 edition of this visualization, Apple’s market capitalization was only $807 billion, and all crypto assets combined for $173 billion. The global debt total was at $215 trillion.

Asset2017 edition2022 editionChange (%)
Apple market cap$807 billion$2.3 trillion+185%
Crypto$173 billion$760 billion+339%
Fed Balance Sheet$4.5 trillion$8.7 trillion+93%
Stock Markets$73 trillion$95.9 trillion+31%
Global Debt$215 trillion$300 trillion+40%

And in just five years, Apple nearly quadrupled in size (it peaked at $3 trillion in January 2022), and crypto also expanded into a multi-trillion dollar market until it was brought back to Earth through the 2022 crash and subsequent FTX implosion.

Meanwhile, global debt continues to accumulate—growing by $85 trillion in the five-year period.

With interest rates expected to continue to rise, companies making cost cuts, and policymakers reining in spending and borrowing, today is another unique snapshot in time.

Now that the easy money era is over, where do things go from here?

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