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Wealth & Inequality in the U.S. and China

Prior to the pandemic, more Chinese were doing better economically than in 2000. But the wealthy, as in the U.S. had advanced faster. The gap between rich and poor in both countries is huge.

November 19, 2020

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From 2000 to 2019, China's economic rise has increased global wealth immensely. At the same time, China's share of that wealth has increased dramatically. China now accounts for 18% of the world's total wealth whereas the U.S. share has declined to 29%. Most people in China are much better off than they were two decades ago.

But the increase has not affected all Chinese equally. Income and wealth inequality has grown. The richest 10% own an increasing share of China's total wealth and the share held by the bottom 50% own less. The U.S. was and remains more unequal in wealth distribution than China, though the gap between the two countries is narrowing.

Partly because of asset inflation, the number of millionaires is on the rise in both the U.S. and China. China now has almost 10% of the world's millionaires. With a population just the fourth the size of China, the U.S. has four times the number of millionaires, 40% of the global total. But China is catching up in the number of ultra-wealthy folks. Some 700 Chinese are worth more than US$500 million. There are 1,300 such people in the U.S.

This data is derived from the Credit Suisse wealth report and from the World Inequality Database.