Where are the world’s millionaires?

An employee counts U.S. dollar bills at a money exchange in central Cairo, Egypt, March 20, 2019.
An employee counts U.S. dollar bills at a money exchange in central Cairo, Egypt, March 20, 2019.
Image: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/File Photo
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For the first time in history, more than 1% of global adults are millionaires—that’s 56.1 million millionaires. But unless you live in a small handful of places, you’re unlikely to bump into one. According to the newest Credit Suisse Global Wealth report, just three countries contain just over 50% of the world’s millionaires—🇺🇸 the US, 🇨🇳 China, and 🇯🇵 Japan.

Stepping back to look at regions, however, Europe as a whole overtakes Asia. North America remains in the top spot with 42.1% of all millionaires, while Europe moves into second place with 17.2%.

Millionaires as a portion of country population

When we consider millionaires as a portion of a country’s population, both China and Japan drop out of the top spots and Switzerland rises to the lead. China has such a large population that despite the fact the nation has 9.4% of the globe’s wealthy, they remain relatively rare in the country.

Millionaires increased during global lockdowns

The number of global millionaires actually increased in 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic and one of the most unstable economic times in recent history. “Wealth creation in 2020 appears to have been completely detached from the economic woes resulting from Covid-19,” write the authors of the Credit Suisse report.

In the second half of 2020, share prices reached record levels, and house prices also rose. These increases in asset prices meant significant gains in household wealth for some. In addition, many countries pumped stimulus money into their economies and bottomed out interest rates. While this helped significant portions of the population stay afloat, it also meant that those with means contained to accrue wealth, and the cost of doing so dropped along with interest rates.

But as the number of millionaires increase around the globe, so did inequality. “Regarding what happened in 2020, the verdict is unanimous, ” write the report’s authors. “The indices all agree that global wealth inequality rose in 2020 by a substantial amount.” The share of wealth held by the top 10% increased, as did the share of the top 1% and the Gini coefficient.

Watch for the rise of millionaires in China

By 2025, the world could see as many as 84 million millionaires. According to Credit Suisse, these gains will come as emerging economies catch up, and the gap between the number of millionaires in the US and China narrows.