The Geography of the Global Super-Rich

Over the past decade or so, there has been increasing concern over rising inequality and the growth of the 1 percent of super-rich people who sit atop the global economy. While studies have charted the super-rich by industry and nation, there is very little research on their location by city or metro area. Our research uses detailed data from Forbes (2015) on the world’s billionaires to test a series of hypotheses about the location of the super-rich across the world’s cities and metro areas. We find that the super-rich are concentrated in a small number of metros around the world and that their location is primarily related to the size of metros: Large metros offer more people bigger markets, more diversified industries and more opportunity that help produce and attract billionaires. The location of the super-rich is more modestly associated with living standards (measured as economic output per capita) and less so with the presence of finance and tech industries, and city competitiveness. Their location is not related to quality of life, which is somewhat surprising in light of the level of mobility the super-rich enjoy, as well as research that finds that affluent and talented people are attracted to higher quality, higher amenity places.

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