Some billionaire list makers believe that Ingvar Kamprad (Ikea’s founder) has a $43 billion fortune while others don’t even include him. As for Donald Trump, he says his wealth exceeds $10 billion while Bloomberg says the total is $2.9 billion.
Deciding who is a billionaire depends on your numbers. Sometimes a fuzzy variable, control of wealth is debatable when ownership is indirect. It also is tough to value a privately held firm since no publicly traded stock exists with a price.
Still though, we can form some dependable conclusions about the world’s most affluent people.
Looking at billionaires, a recent paper from the Peterson Institute cites three trends.
- The number of billionaires from emerging markets is growing at a slightly faster rate than in advanced countries.
- The trend has been toward self-made wealth rather than inherited affluence.
- Worldwide, the super-rich vary. Asia has the large-scale entrepreneurs, in the U.S. billionaires tend to be self-made, and in Europe and the Middle East, inherited wealth is still more evident.
We also can add that a majority of U.S. billionaires did not attend a prestigious college:
And close to one-third of the billionaires in the U.S. did not attend college at all:
However, for those that did attend a prestigious school, these are the top 10:
Our Bottom Line: Globalization
In his new book on global inequality, Branko Milanovic provides some good news and bad news about billionaires and the world’s increasing wealth.
The good news is that globalization is facilitating income convergence. Calling it a catch-up, he says that globalization is one reason China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh, have been narrowing the worldwide wealth gap.
As a negative though he cites the dependence of the world’s affluent on globalization and the political divide it is creating in countries like the U.S.
My sources and more: Reading about billionaires can start with fun facts but ultimately it takes us to the increasingly controversial topic of globalization. For the facts and the issues, I recommend articles from the Washington Post and the NY Times, this paper from the the Peterson Institute, and the Branko Milanovic book, Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization.