When we talk about the money that the “average” American worker makes, we are usually referencing a “median” or “mean” income statistic.
While this number can be useful in many different contexts, it can also be extremely limiting. The reality is that there’s a very wide range of incomes out there, even within a particular type of industry. Some people can barely make ends meet, and others make millions of dollars more.
To view income distribution through a wider lens, data visualization expert Nathan Yau has created an interactive chart that breaks down millions of data points into just 50 dots per industry. The dots are visualized on a scale from $0 to $200k+ and binned in $5,000 increments. Data is also adjusted for inflation.
Income Distribution by Industry in 1960
Here’s a snapshot showing what income distribution looked like 57 years ago for a variety of broad industries:
Generally speaking, many of the ranges are on the lower side of things and tend to have data points clustered around the “middle” of each distribution.
Income Distribution by Industry in 2014
Fast forward to 2014, and nearly every income bracket has expanded out.
In many of these professions, workers are now making more money – this is good news for the economy.
The downside? There are two problems: (1) Higher inequality, and (2) Many of the new jobs created recently are on the lower end of the income spectrum.
As you can see, top earning lawyers, engineers, or managers are able to climb up towards the tops of their brackets. A lucky few are able to make $200k+, which is far more than the vast majority of the workforce.
However, workers in other industries like food preparation or healthcare support are not so lucky. Unfortunately, in these sectors, making a middle-class income is very difficult – and many people are bringing in less than $25k per year. Yet, it is in these types of sectors that we’ve seen the majority of “new jobs” appear over recent years.
It makes it difficult for society to solve the income inequality problem when this is the case.
Mapped: The World’s Billionaire Population, by Country
Collectively, worldwide billionaire wealth is nearly $12 trillion. This map breaks down where these 3,311 billionaires live around the globe.
Visualized: The World’s Billionaire Population
The world’s billionaires—only 3,311 individuals—represent almost $11.8 trillion in wealth. The global billionaire population continued to grow in 2021, increasing by 3%. Over the same period, billionaire wealth also increased by 18%.
This map uses data from the Wealth-X Billionaire Census to visualize where the world’s billionaires live and breaks down their collective wealth.
Note on methodology: The report uses proprietary data from Wealth-X. Billionaire status is determined by assessing an individual’s total net worth, including publicly and privately held businesses and investable assets. To determine a billionaire’s location, Wealth-X used their primary business address.
Billionaires by Region
We’ll begin by zooming out to look at how various continents and world regions rank in terms of their billionaire population.
North America is home to most billionaires, worth $4.6 trillion. The U.S., unsurprisingly, accounts for the majority of this wealth, with 975 billionaires and a collective net worth of $4.45 trillion.
|Rank||Region||Number of billionaires||Collective Billionaire Wealth|
|#1||North America||1,035||$4.6 trillion|
|#4||Middle East||191||$519 billion|
|#5||Latin America and the Caribbean||146||$465 billion|
In regional terms, Europe’s billionaire wealth is growing the fastest, up 22% year-over-year in 2021. In contrast, the year-over-year change in the Middle East was -12.5%.
Asia is inching towards Europe, holding almost a quarter of all billionaire wealth worldwide, compared to Europe’s 26.5%.
Wealth in Africa will also be important to watch in coming years. Although only home to 46 billionaires currently, the change in billionaire wealth increased by almost 17% year-over-year. Additionally, while they no longer live there, a number of the world’s billionaires hail from African countries originally.
Billionaires by Country
Now, let’s look at the ranking broken down by the top 15 countries:
|Rank||Country||Number of Billionaires||Collective Billionaire Wealth|
|#1||🇺🇸 US||975||$4.45 trillion|
|#2||🇨🇳 China||400||$1.45 trillion|
|#3||🇩🇪 Germany||176||$602 billion|
|#4||🇮🇳 India||124||$384 billion|
|#5||🇬🇧 UK||120||$266 billion|
|#6||🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR||114||$287 billion|
|#7||🇨🇭 Switzerland||111||$365 billion|
|#8||🇷🇺 Russia||107||$475 billion|
|#9||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||71||$192 billion|
|#10||🇫🇷 France||68||$294 billion|
|#11||🇮🇹 Italy||68||$207 billion|
|#12||🇨🇦 Canada||60||$131 billion|
|#13||🇧🇷 Brazil||52||$159 billion|
|#14||🇸🇬 Singapore||50||$99 billion|
|#15||🇦🇪 UAE||45||$181 billion|
China is an obvious second in billionaire wealth to the United States, with famous billionaires like Zhang Yiming ($44.5 billion) of TikTok and Zhong Shanshan ($67.1 billion), whose wealth primarily comes from the pharmaceutical and beverages industries.
That said, Chinese billionaire wealth actually decreased 2% last year. It was India that came out on top in terms of growth, seeing a 19% increase in 2021.
Billionaires by City
Looking at cities, New York is home to the most billionaires—with 13 added billionaire residents last year—followed by Hong Kong.
|Rank||City||Country||Number of Billionaires|
|#1||New York City||🇺🇸 U.S.||138|
|#2||Hong Kong||🇭🇰 China||114|
|#3||San Francisco||🇺🇸 U.S.||85|
|#7||Los Angeles||🇺🇸 U.S.||59|
|#13||São Paulo||🇧🇷 Brazil||34|
Billionaire Wealth in 2022
Billionaires have significant power and influence, not in the least because their collective wealth is equivalent to about 11.8% of global GDP.
In recent billionaire news, Gautam Adani’s wealth has been soaring, most recently hitting the $145 billion mark, making him the third-richest person in the world according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. However, not all billionaires are holding on to their wealth. Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard, recently transferred ownership of his company to an organization that fights climate change.
Over the last decade, billionaires have been grown their fortunes considerably, with wealth increasing at a faster rate than the growth in the number of billionaires themselves. According to Wealth-X, collective billionaire net worth grew by an astonishing 90% in the last 10 years.
But in the shorter term, the situation is often more volatile. With markets reeling in 2022, Bloomberg reported that billionaires lost a record $1.4 trillion over the first half of the year. Once the year is over and the final numbers are in, it will be interesting to see how the billionaire landscape shapes up in comparison to the more long-term trend.
Charting the Relationship Between Wealth and Happiness, by Country
Can money really buy happiness? In this chart, we compare most of the world’s countries to examine the relationship between wealth and happiness.
The Relationship Between Wealth and Happiness, by Country
Throughout history, the pursuit of happiness has been a preoccupation of humankind.
Of course, we humans are not just content with measuring our own happiness, but also our happiness in relation to the people around us—and even other people around the world. The annual World Happiness Report, which uses global survey data to report how people evaluate their own lives in more than 150 countries, helps us do just that.
The factors that contribute to happiness are as subjective and specific as the billions of humans they influence, but there are a few that have continued to resonate over time. Family. Love. Purpose. Wealth. The first three examples are tough to measure, but the latter can be analyzed in a data-driven way.
Does money really buy happiness? Let’s find out.
Wealth and Happiness
To crunch the numbers, we looked at data from Credit Suisse, which breaks down the average wealth per adult in various countries around the world.
The table below looks at 146 countries by their happiness score and wealth per adult:
|Country||Median Wealth per Adult (US$)||Happiness Score|
|🇳🇿 New Zealand||171,624||7.2|
|🇺🇸 United States||79,274||7.0|
|🇨🇿 Czech Republic||23,794||6.9|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||131,522||6.9|
|🇨🇷 Costa Rica||14,662||6.6|
|🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||21,613||6.6|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||15,495||6.5|
|🇸🇻 El Salvador||11,372||6.1|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||89,671||5.9|
|🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina||15,283||5.8|
|🇩🇴 Dominican Republic||22,701||5.7|
|🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR||173,768||5.4|
|🇿🇦 South Africa||4,523||5.2|
|🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire||6,621||5.2|
|🇲🇰 North Macedonia||51,788||5.2|
|🇬🇲 The Gambia||658||5.2|
|🇧🇫 Burkina Faso||622||4.7|
|🇱🇰 Sri Lanka||8,802||4.4|
|🇨🇩 DR Congo||356||4.4|
|🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||370||3.6|
|🇸🇸 South Sudan||2,677||2.9|
While the results don’t definitively point to wealth contributing to happiness, there is a strong correlation across the board. Broadly speaking, the world’s poorest countries have the lowest happiness scores, and the richest report being the most happy.
Regional and Country-Level Observations
While many of the countries follow an obvious trend (more wealth = more happiness), there are nuances and outliers worth exploring.
- In Latin America, people self-report more happiness than the trend between wealth and happiness would predict.
- On the flip side, many nations in the Middle East report slightly less happiness than levels of wealth would predict.
- Political turmoil, an economic crisis, and the devastating explosion in Beirut have resulted in Lebanon scoring far worse than would be expected. Over the past decade, the country’s score has fallen by nearly two full points.
- Hong Kong has seen its happiness score sink for years now. Inequality, protests, instability, and now COVID-19 outbreaks have placed the region in an unusual zone on the chart: rich and unhappy.
Examining Inequality and Happiness
We’ve looked at the relationship between wealth and happiness between countries, but what about within countries?
The Gini Coefficient is a tool that allows us to do just that. This measure looks at income distribution across a population, and applies a score to that population. Simply put, a score of 0 would be “perfect equality”, and 1 would be “perfect inequality” (i.e. an individual or group of recipients is receiving the entire income distribution).
Combined with the same happiness scale as before, this is how countries shape up.
While there is no ironclad conclusion that can be derived from this dataset, there are big picture observations worth highlighting.
The 15 Countries With Highest Income Inequality
|Countries with High inequality||Happiness Score||Gini Score|
|🇿🇦 South Africa||5.2||0.63|
|🇨🇷 Costa Rica||6.6||0.49|
|🇧🇫 Burkina Faso||4.7||0.47|
First, countries with lower income inequality tend to also report more happiness. The 15 countries in this dataset with the highest inequality (shown above) have an average happiness score 1.3 lower than the 15 countries with the lowest inequality (shown below).
The 15 Countries With Lowest Income Inequality
|Countries with low inequality||Happy Score||Gini Score|
|🇨🇿 Czech Republic||6.9||25.3|
|🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||6.6||26|
Next, interesting regional differences emerge.
Despite high income inequality, many Latin American countries report levels of happiness similar to many much-wealthier European nations.
The Bottom Line
People have been seeking understanding on happiness for millennia now, and it’s unlikely that slicing and dicing datasets will crack the code. Still though, much like the pursuit of happiness, the pursuit of understanding is human nature.
And, in more concrete terms, the more policymakers and the public understand the link between wealth and happiness, the more likely we can shape societies that give us a better chance at living a happy life.
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