Ever since the rise of the Occupy Movement, we’ve become familiar with the huge amount of the world’s wealth controlled by the so-called “one percent.” Earlier this year, a report by Oxfam International claimed that the world’s 62 wealthiest people control the same amount of wealth as half of its population. But despite all the talk of the global super-rich, there is little empirical research on who they are, where they live, and where their wealth actually comes from.
A new report from Caroline Freund and Sarah Oliver at the Peterson Institute for International Economics helps us better understand this population by developing a comprehensive database of the world’s billionaires, drawn from two decades of data from Forbes’ annual World’s Billionaires list. The report, which covers the years 1996-2015, divides the world into six regional categories: Europe, Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, South and Central Asia, East Asia, and Anglo countries (which include the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand). It also groups industries into five broad sectors: resource-related, new, traded, non-traded, and financial. Even more interestingly, it compares the world’s self-made billionaires to those who have inherited their wealth.