The billionaire boom

The number of billionaires in the world has hit an all-time high of 2,325, with Latin America and the Caribbean recording the biggest year-over-year jump.

Are you worth more than US$1 billion? Then you belong to the class of billionaires who, according to the Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census 2014, control nearly 4% of the world's wealth. It’s a rather exclusive club, since there is only one billionaire for every three million people in the world.

Over the past year, billionaires have propagated at an extremely high rate (7%), reaching an all-time high of 2,325. This is good news for the other 7 billion-plus Earth-dwellers who, with a growth rate of only 1.14% (according to, can hope one day to become billionaires.

Billionaires' combined wealth, which increased over the past year by 12% to US$7.3 trillion, is higher than the market capitalization of all the companies that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average. However, their collective portfolio has not performed as well as the global S&P1200 equity index — perhaps a sign that the multitudes are catching up.

As expected, the US still harbours the highest number of billionaires: 571. But as a region, Europe is home to the highest number: 775. Asia is doing very well, with 52 new recruits. But Latin America and the Caribbean region definitely take the prize for this year, with the number of billionaires increasing to 153 from 111 — a whopping 37.8% increase, a little more than five times the world average.

 A few more highlights from the census:
  • Cities matter to billionaires, not countries. Billionaires are concentrated in only 20 cities and move from city to city, not country to country.
  • They are strong on entrepreneurship: 54.7% are self-made billionaires, that proportion moving up to 80.5% if we add those whose wealth is partly self-made, partly inherited.
  • There is a "middle-class" of billionaires: 95% have a net worth of less than US$10 billion, and the average fortune is US$3.1 billion.
  • Banking and finance is the sector where most fortunes are made: 19.3%.

About the Author

Yan Barcelo

Yan Barcelo is a journalist in Montreal.

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