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The Geography of the World’s 50 Top Billionaires

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50 Top Billionaires by Geography

The Geography of the World’s 50 Top Billionaires

The business world has undergone considerable change in the last two decades.

While some fortunes are always reliably passed on to their respective heirs and heiresses, there are also entirely new industries that rise out of nowhere to shape the landscape of global wealth.

As the wealth landscape shifts, so does its geographical distribution.

The 2019 List of Billionaires

Today’s chart uses data from the most recent edition of the Forbes Billionaires List to map the distribution of the world’s richest people, and then compare that to data from 20 years prior.

We’ll start here by looking at the most recent data from 2019:

RankNameNet Worth ($B)CitizenshipIndustry
#1Jeff Bezos131🇺🇸 USATech, eCommerce
#2Bill Gates96.5🇺🇸 USATech
#3Warren Buffett82.5🇺🇸 USAInvestments
#4Bernard Arnault76🇫🇷 FranceLuxury Goods, Cosmetics
#5Carlos Slim Helu64🇲🇽 MexicoTelecommunications
#6Amancio Ortega62.7🇪🇸 SpainApparel
#7Larry Ellison62.5🇺🇸 USATech
#8Mark Zuckerberg62.3🇺🇸 USATech
#9Michael Bloomberg55.5🇺🇸 USAMedia
#10Larry Page50.8🇺🇸 USATech
#11Charles Koch50.5🇺🇸 USADiversified
#12David Koch50.5🇺🇸 USADiversified
#13Mukesh Ambani50🇮🇳 IndiaOil & Gas, Telecoms
#14Sergey Brin49.8🇺🇸 USATech
#15Francoise Bettencourt49.3🇫🇷 FranceCosmetics
#16Jim Walton44.6🇺🇸 USARetail
#17Alice Walton44.4🇺🇸 USARetail, Art
#18Rob Walton44.3🇺🇸 USARetail
#19Steve Ballmer41.2🇺🇸 USATech
#20Ma Huateng (Pony)38.8🇨🇳 ChinaTech
#21Jack Ma37.3🇨🇳 ChinaTech, eCommerce
#22Hui Ka Yan36.2🇨🇳 ChinaReal Estate
#23Beate Heister & Karl Albrecht Jr.36.1🇩🇪 GermanyRetail
#24Sheldon Adelson35.1🇺🇸 USACasinos
#25Michael Dell34.3🇺🇸 USATech
#26Phil Knight33.4🇺🇸 USAApparel
#27David Thomson32.5🇨🇦 CanadaMedia
#28Li Ka-shing31.7🇨🇳 ChinaDeveloper
#29Lee Shau Kee30.1🇨🇳 ChinaDeveloper
#30François Pinault29.7🇫🇷 FranceLuxury Goods
#31Joseph Safra25.2🇧🇷 BrazilDiversified
#32Leonid Mikhelson24🇷🇺 RussiaOil & Gas
#33Jacqueline Mars23.4🇺🇸 USAFood
#34John Mars23.9🇺🇸 USAFood
#35Jorge Paulo Lemann22.8🇧🇷 BrazilDiversified
#36Azim Premji22.6🇮🇳 IndiaTech
#37Dieter Schwarz22.6🇩🇪 GermanyRetail
#38Wang Jianlin22.6🇨🇳 ChinaReal Estate
#39Giovanni Ferrero22.4🇮🇹 ItalyFood
#40Elon Musk22.4🇺🇸 USAAutomotive, Tech
#41Tadashi Yanai22.2🇯🇵 JapanApparel
#42Yang Huiyan22.1🇨🇳 ChinaReal Estate
#43Masayoshi Son21.6🇯🇵 JapanBanking, Investments
#44Jim Simons21.5🇺🇸 USAInvestments
#45Vladimir Lisin21.3🇷🇺 RussiaSteel, Transportation
#46Susanne Klatten21🇩🇪 GermanyAutomotive, Pharma
#47Vagit Alekperov20.7🇷🇺 RussiaOil & Gas
#48Alexey Mordashov20.5🇷🇺 RussiaSteel, Investments
#49Gennady Timchenko20.1🇷🇺 RussiaOil & Gas
#50Leonardo Del Vecchio19.8🇮🇹 ItalyEyewear

The most recent billionaires list features Jeff Bezos at the top with $131 billion, although it’s likely his recent divorce announcement will provide an upcoming shakeup to the Bezos Empire.

Bezos is just one of 21 Americans that find themselves in the top 50 list, which means that 42% of the world’s top billionaires hail from the United States.

Billionaire Geography Over Time

If we compare the top 50 list to that from 1999, it’s interesting to see what has changed over time in terms of geographical distribution.

Here’s the distribution of top countries on both lists, compared:

CitizenshipTop Billionaires (1999)Top Billionaires (2019)Change
🇷🇺 Russia05+5
🇨🇳 China37+4
🇺🇸 United States1821+3
🇧🇷 Brazil02+2
🇮🇳 India02+2
🇮🇹 Italy12+1
🇪🇸 Spain01+1
🇲🇽 Mexico110
🇨🇦 Canada110
🇧🇲 Bermuda10-1
🇯🇵 Japan32-1
🇫🇷 France53-2
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia20-2
🇹🇼 Taiwan20-2
🇸🇪 Sweden30-3
🇨🇭Switzerland30-3
🇩🇪 Germany73-4

In the last 20 years, Russia and China have stockpiled the most top billionaires, adding five and four to the top 50 list respectively. The United States added three, going from 18 to 21 billionaires over the timeframe.

On the other end of the spectrum, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland have lost the most billionaires from the top 50 ranking.

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Business

Mapped: The 50 Richest Women in the World in 2021

Fewer than 12% of global billionaires are women, but they still hold massive amounts of wealth. Who are the 50 richest women in the world?

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Mapped: The 50 Richest Women in the World in 2021

View the high-resolution of the infographic by clicking here.

According to a recent census by Wealth-X, 11.9% of global billionaires are women. Even at such a minority share, this group still holds massive amounts of wealth.

Using a real-time list of billionaires from Forbes, we examine the net worth of the 50 richest women in the world and which country they’re from.

Where are the World’s Richest Women?

The richest woman in the world, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers and family own 33% of stock in L’Oréal S.A., a French personal care brand. She is also the granddaughter of its founder.

In April 2019, L’Oréal and the Bettencourt Meyers family pledged $226 million (€200 million) towards the repair of the Notre Dame cathedral after its devastating fire.

Following closely behind is Alice Walton of the Walmart empire—also the world’s richest family. Together with her brothers, they own over 50% of the company’s shares. That’s a pretty tidy sum, considering Walmart raked in $524 billion in revenues in their 2020 fiscal year.

Other family ties among the richest women in the world include Jacqueline Mars and her four granddaughters, heiresses to a slice of the Mars Inc. fortune in candy and pet food—and all of them make this list.

RankNameNet Worth ($B)Country
#1Francoise Bettencourt Meyers & family$71.4🇫🇷 France
#2Alice Walton$68.0🇺🇸 United States
#3MacKenzie Scott$54.9🇺🇸 United States
#4Julia Koch & family$44.9🇺🇸 United States
#5Yang Huiyan & family$31.4🇨🇳 China
#6Jacqueline Mars$28.9🇺🇸 United States
#7Susanne Klatten$25.8🇩🇪 Germany
#8Zhong Huijuan$23.5🇨🇳 China
#9Laurene Powell Jobs & family$22.1🇺🇸 United States
#10Iris Fontbona & family$21.0🇨🇱 Chile
#11Zhou Qunfei & family$18.6🇭🇰 Hong Kong
#12Fan Hongwei & family$17.9🇨🇳 China
#13Gina Rinehart$17.4🇦🇺 Australia
#14Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken & family$17.1🇳🇱 Netherlands
#15Wu Yajun$16.3🇨🇳 China
#16Abigail Johnson$15.0🇺🇸 United States
#17Kirsten Rausing$13.5🇸🇪 Sweden
#18Kwong Siu-hing$13.0🇭🇰 Hong Kong
#19Lu Zhongfang$12.7🇨🇳 China
#20Wang Laichun$12.7🇨🇳 China
#21Cheng Xue$10.8🇨🇳 China
#22Massimiliana Landini Aleotti & family$10.6🇮🇹 Italy
#23Denise Coates$9.9🇬🇧 United Kingdom
#24Lam Wai Ying$9.1🇭🇰 Hong Kong
#25Ann Walton Kroenke$9.1🇺🇸 United States
#26Savitri Jindal & family$8.7🇮🇳 India
#27Nancy Walton Laurie$8.2🇺🇸 United States
#28Blair Parry-Okeden$8.2🇺🇸 United States
#29Diane Hendricks$8.0🇺🇸 United States
#30Christy Walton$7.8🇺🇸 United States
#31Zhao Yan$7.8🇨🇳 China
#32Zeng Fangqin$7.6🇨🇳 China
#33Magdalena Martullo-Blocher$7.5🇨🇭 Switzerland
#34Rahel Blocher$7.4🇨🇭 Switzerland
#35Marie-Hélène Habert$7.2🇫🇷 France
#36Pamela Mars$7.2🇺🇸 United States
#37Victoria Mars$7.2🇺🇸 United States
#38Valerie Mars$7.2🇺🇸 United States
#39Marijke Mars$7.2🇺🇸 United States
#40Sandra Ortega Mera$7.1🇪🇸 Spain
#41Antonia Ax:son Johnson & family$7.0🇸🇪 Sweden
#42Sofie Kirk Kristiansen$6.9🇩🇰 Denmark
#43Agnete Kirk Thinggaard$6.9🇩🇰 Denmark
#44Li Haiyan$6.7🇨🇳 China
#45Ronda Stryker$6.6🇺🇸 United States
#46Marie Besnier Beauvalot$6.3🇫🇷 France
#47Zheng Shuliang & family$6.2🇨🇳 China
#48Meg Whitman$5.8🇺🇸 United States
#49Chan Laiwa & family$5.8🇨🇳 China
#50Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala & family$5.8🇲🇽 Mexico

All data as of January 15, 2021 (9AM PST)

MacKenzie Scott, ranked #3 on the list, was heavily involved in the early days of turning Amazon into an e-commerce behemoth. She was involved in areas from bookkeeping and accounts to negotiating the company’s first freight contract. Her high-profile divorce from Jeff Bezos captured the headlines, notably because she gained control over 4% of Amazon’s outstanding shares.

The total value of these shares? An eye-watering $38.3 billion—propelling her to the status of one of America’s richest people.

However, MacKenzie Scott has more altruistic ventures in mind for this wealth. In 2020, she gave away $5.8 billion towards causes such as climate change and racial equality in just four months, and is a signatory on the Giving Pledge.

[Scott’s near $6 billion donation has] to be one of the biggest annual distributions by a living individual.

—Melissa Berman, CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

Looking towards the East, Yang Huiyan became the richest woman in Asia after inheriting 70% of shares in the property development company Country Garden Holdings. The company went public in 2007, raising $1.6 billion in its IPO—an amount comparable to Google’s IPO in 2004.

To aid frontline health workers during the pandemic, Country Garden Holdings set up robotic, automated buffet stations to safely serve medical staff in Wuhan, China.

Giving Generously

While the 50 richest women in the world have certainly made progress, the overall tier of billionaires is still very much a boys’ club. One thing that also factors into this could be the way this wealth is spent.

As many female billionaires inherited their wealth, a large share are more inclined to contribute to charitable causes where they can use their money to make an impact. What percentage of billionaires by gender have contributed at least $1 million in donations over the past five years?

Made $1mm in donations over last 5 years (%)

Source of wealth👩 Female philanthropists👨 Male philanthropists
Inherited68%5%
Inherited/Self-made20%28%
Self-made12%67%

Source: Wealth-X

Meanwhile, male billionaires are more likely to donate to charity if they built the wealth themselves—and many companies that fall into this category certainly stepped up during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis.

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Putting the Cost of COVID-19 in Perspective

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cost of COVID-19

Putting the Economic Cost of COVID-19 in Perspective

When it comes to the toll on human life, mental well-being, and any long-term complications, the true cost of COVID-19 can be difficult to quantify.

That said, from a purely economic angle, researchers can and do examine these things—as well as economic data like unemployment and lost GDP, to assign dollar figures to the pandemic.

Using data from a study out of Harvard University, these visualizations focus on putting the economic cost of COVID-19 in the U.S. in perspective. To help us understand the immense price associated with a pandemic, the study looked at other comparables like the costs of running America’s longstanding war on terror.

Cost of COVID-19 vs. post 911 wars

The Cost of COVID-19

Since the pandemic took hold in the U.S. in March 2020, job loss has been one of the most significant consequences. Unemployment claims in the U.S. have recently reached a total of 60 million, while lost GDP is estimated to be around $7.6 trillion.

Unemployment, uncertainty, lost loved ones, and lost social connections, have led to spikes in depression and anxiety. In April 2020, around 40% of U.S. adults reported having at least one of these mental illnesses. Based on the sheer number of people struggling, the cost of mental health impairment could be as high as $1.6 trillion, according to these researchers.

CategoryCost (Billions)
Lost Gross Domestic Product (GDP)$7,592
Premature Death$4,375
Long-Term Health Impairment$2,572
Mental Health Impairment$1,581
Total$16,120

The economic value of a human life can be put in terms of ‘statistical lives’, a notion used in both American and global health policy. While human life is priceless, the value tied to one using this metric sits between $7-$10 million. Even when using the lower end of the scale, the cost of premature death due to COVID-19 is estimated to be $4.4 trillion.

Finally, when looking at the long-term healthcare costs that could impact people who contract COVID-19, the price comes out to almost $2.6 trillion. These costs will go on for decades as certain lifelong conditions can emerge out of COVID-19, like respiratory and cardiovascular issues.

Many of these conditions could also end up causing premature deaths, drawing out the total cost of COVID-19 even further.

The Cost of War

cost of war example

Both a global pandemic and a war have long-term health consequences and are extremely pricey.

The estimated cost of the post-9/11 wars rises to over $6 trillion. This is measured by the spending of the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and USAID. The estimate also takes into consideration current and future spending on medical and disability care for veterans, the cost of war appropriations and spending, the estimated interest on borrowing for different departments, and the spending the Department of Homeland Security has done in order to prevent and respond to terrorism.

CategoryCost (Billions)
Department of Defense$1,959
State Department/USAID$131
Estimated Interest on Borrowing for DOD and State Dept OCO Spending $925
Estimated Increases to DOD Base Budget Due to Post-9-11 Wars$803
"OCO for Base” a new category of spending in FY2019 and FY2020$100
Medical and Disability Care for Post-9/11 Veterans $437
Homeland Security Spending for Prevention and Response to Terrorism $1,054
Total War Appropriations and War-Related Spending through FY 2020$5,409
Estimated Future Obligations for Veterans Medical and Disability FY2020 –FY2059 $1,000
Total War-Related Spending through FY2020 and Obligations for Veterans$6,409

Medical and disability care for veterans from the post-9/11 wars specifically comes out to $437 billion, with estimated future obligations for their care going up to $1 trillion.

The increases to the Department of Defense’s budget was $803 billion thanks to the post 9/11 wars, and the Department of Homeland Security has spent more $1.05 trillion on terrorism prevention and response.

While the costs associated with war are immense, and while the consequences of fighting in a war are usually lifelong, the estimated price is still about $10 trillion cheaper than the cost of COVID-19 in the United States.

Throwing Money at the Problem?

The short-term solution to COVID-19 seems to be vaccine investment, with the U.S. currently purchasing more than one billion doses. Vaccines could spell the return to a more normal life, both in terms of physical health and the health of the economy.

While economic recovery is on the horizon, the U.S—and other nations around the globe—will continue to pay the cost of COVID-19 for years to come.

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