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Everything you ever wanted to know about the world’s billionaires

Warren Buffet
Reuters/Lucas Jackson
A rare bird.
By Zach Wener-Fligner

2014-15 Fellow. Quartz Things team.

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

The ranks of billionaires expanded 7% to 2,325 this year, according to a billionaire census conducted by UBS and Wealth-X, a private research firm that studies the ultra-rich. These few thousand individuals control $7.3 trillion, almost 4% of the world’s wealth. Here’s what the report taught us about life atop the money pile.

Billionaires flock to big, important cities

Unsurprisingly, the very rich tend to live in important global financial centers. 15% of billionaires live in New York, Moscow, Hong Kong, or London, and 35% of all billionaires live in the 20 most popular cities.

In terms of countries, the US has nearly three times as many billionaires as any other. Brazil, Russia, India, and China—the rapidly developing economies often referred to as the BRICs—also rank highly.

 They sit on a lot of cash

Billionaires keep most of their money in their companies. But they also keep a lot of cash on hand—specifically, an average of $600 million, $60 million more than last year. And they devote a notable chunk to life’s finer things. From the report: “one in 30 billionaires owns a sports team or a racehorse. Other significant luxury assets include yachts, planes, cars, and art.”

If you want to be rich among billionaires, you need more than $10 billion

If you’re worth $1 billion, you’re run-of-the-mill by billionaire standards. The Wealth-X report points to a $10 billion ”ceiling,” which 95% of billionaires fall below. There are four billionaires worth more than $50 billion. You know them: Carlos Slim, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Amancio Ortega.

Over a third of billionaires didn’t go to college

Famous examples like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg make it clear that formal education isn’t necessary to achieve billionaire status. In fact, 35% of billionaires skipped college.


Of the ones that did go, though, the most popular schools were what you might expect.

It’s much harder for women to join the party

Only 14% of the world’s billionaires are women. Moreover, 17% of those women built their wealth from scratch, compared with 60% of male billionaires. The US, China, and Hong Kong are breeding grounds, accounting for over 70% of self-made female billionaires.

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