Number of Millionaires in U.S. Decreases but Spikes Worldwide

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If you want a clear picture of where global wealth is heading, take a look at the number of millionaire households that have shifted away from the U.S. and toward emerging economies.

In a new report by Boston Consulting Group, the number of households that have a net worth of more than $1 million is on the decline in the U.S., decreasing by 129,000 in 2011. But globally, the number wealthy households grew by 175,000 – largely in China and India.

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The U.S. still led the world in the number of millionaire households – around 5.1 million, followed by Japan (1.6 million) and China (1.4 million). But China is slowly gaining on second-place Japan, and the study’s authors project that that number will only grow considering there are a number of initial public offerings expected in China in the next several years.

Perhaps the most surprising stat from BCG’s study is the density of millionaires in Singapore. More than 17% of all households have wealth of $1 million or more in the Asian city-state, followed by Qatar (14.3%) and Kuwait (11.8%). In the U.S., millionaires make up 5.1% of the population. In BCG’s estimates, the authors define wealth as including cash, stock and other assets but excluding property, businesses and luxury goods.

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If you exclude Japan, there has been a significant shift of wealth toward Asia. While the Japanese economy has struggled, China and India have been quickly growing over the last decade. According to the study, private wealth increased by 10.7% ($23.7 trillion) in Asia (excluding Japan) while declining 0.9% ($38 trillion) in North America. It also decreased by 2% ($17.8 trillion) in Japan.

Among the upper reaches of the 1%, however, the U.S. still leads the world. While the number of ultra-high-net-worth households (having more than $100 million) declined in 2011 from 2,989 to 2,928, the U.S. was still well ahead of second-place Britain, which remained unchanged with 1,125.