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Global Economics

Chinese Billionaires Are the World’s Youngest

Around the world, billionaires aren’t living like you and me. But neither are the überwealthy in different countries living precisely like each other. China’s titans, for instance, are relatively young. The average age of the country’s 157 billionaires is 53 years old—nine years younger than the world average, according to the newly released 2013 Billionaire Census by Wealth-X and UBS (UBS).

In China, 9 out of 10 billionaires are self-made, the highest percentage of any country. To be sure, self-made fortunes aren’t always made cleanly in China, as Bloomberg News documented in a 2012 investigative series on the extreme wealth of China’s leading political families, “Revolution to Riches.”

It’s no surprise, given the deep intertwinement of money and political power in China, that Beijing is home to the country’s highest number of billionaires, with 26. That’s followed by Shanghai, with 19 billionaires, and Shenzhen with 16. The UBS study calculates the combined net worth of China’s billionaires to be $384 billion, roughly equivalent to the entire annual gross domestic product of South Africa in 2012.

As with billionaires, luxury buyers in China tend to be younger than the global norm, at least in certain product categories. In 2011 the average Ferrari (F:IM) buyer in the U.S. was 47 years old; in China, he was 32. (And yes, in both countries it’s mostly “he’s” buying Ferraris, and also appearing on billionaire lists.)

Larson is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor.

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