In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (April 2013, Volume 4, Issue 1) Danny Dorling and I looked at the global geography of wealth. The map that I created for this feature displays data published by Forbes Magazine in spring 2012 (updated annualy). For 2012 Forbes counted 1153 billionaires across the globe (this figure includes families, but excludes fortunes dispersed across large families where the average wealth per person is below a billion). The total wealth of the billionaires was US$3.7 trillion – as great as the annual gross domestic product of Germany. Top of this league table is the US with 424 billionaires (or billionaire families), followed by Russia (96) and China (95). The following cartogram animation shows, how the distribution of billionaires and the distribution of their total wealth compares. Although there are only small changes between the two maps, it is quite apparent that the wealthiest in the wealthier parts of the world accumulate slightly higher shares of wealth than those living in the emerging economies such as China (though this may be some of the less worrying inequalities that exist globally):
(click for larger version)
Looking at similar data collected by WealthInsight (extracts published in the Guardian newspaper) – which published more detailed statistics on the geographic distribution of 521 of the wealthiest billionaires – we can see that the plutocrats’ global city of choice is Moscow with 78 billionaire residents, followed by New York City (58), Hong Kong (40), and London (39). The most attractive place for foreign wealth appears to be the United Kingdom with 15 different nationalities represented in the richest of the rich there. This tops even Switzerland (14 nationalities) and the United States (9).
Much of the wealth of billionaires is held offshore and their wealth is the tip of an iceberg of hard-to-tax personal assets. In a recent Tax Justice Network report (pdf), James Henry estimated the overall global offshore financial assets held by the world’s richest to be between US$21 trillion and US$32 trillion (out of the total global wealth, estimated at US$231 trillion). Nearly half of these offshore assets are owned by the world’s richest 91,000, just 0.001% of the global population.
The distribution of this wealth is a story of extreme inequality. For each billionaire there are millions of people who can only ever dream of such wealth – the ratio is only slightly smaller in the richest countries of the world: in the USA one billionaire can be found for every 740,000 people, while in India one billionaire is found amongst every 26 million people.
Over time the inequalities in the distribution of global wealth have become ever more polarised. According to a 2006 study by the United Nations University (UNU-WIDER), half of all global household wealth was owned by the richest 2% of adults. The poorer half of the world’s population owned just 1 per cent of the global wealth between all of them. Their distribution is the reverse image of the wealth maps shown here.
But it is not only wealth inequality that becomes very apparent in these numbers. The gender gap is large among the rich: Of the countries with more than 10 billionaires, Sweden is the most equal. But even here only 27% of billionaires are female, followed by Germany (20%) and Brazil (19%). Russia, home to the second largest number of billionaires, only has one woman in the ranking, and the USA is not much better with only 10% of the country’s billionaires female. 37 of the 59 countries shown here have no female billionaires at all.
George Osborne’s autumn statement on the government’s budget rekindled the ongoing debate about the fairness of the coalition’s spending cuts. How does it look like if you take a look at the richest and the poorest parts of society? In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2012, Volume 3, Issue 3) Danny Dorling and I plotted the geography of the wealthiest of the wealthy in the United Kingdom in comparison to poverty.
The map that I created for this feature displays the distribution of the top 1% of the wealthiest 1% according to information published by the agency WealthInsight, one of the companies trying to gather information on this part of the publication that is a prime target for exclusive marketing. Displayed in the map are data on people with assets in excess of US$30 million and where they have their prime address registered in the UK. The extent of the data is very limited because WealthInsight releases data for only 20 UK cities and regions based on postcode areas (Northern Ireland is a single postcode area which is why we did not correlate that data with Belfast’s overall population). Here we have superimposed that data on a population cartogram of the country, drawing circles with an area in proportion to the numbers of super-rich (in red) over people living in each city (in blue). Where they overlap, the circles turn into a purple colour. Where there are more super-rich people than population alone would predict, there is an orange ring around a purple core, as shown around London. Where there are fewer super-rich than the population of a city might predict, there is a blue outer-ring, as around Birmingham. The underlying map shows the distribution of poverty in the UK in five shades of grey.
Cities such as Leeds, Birmingham and Nottingham have fewer super-rich than might be expected – partly because they are not especially affluent urban centres but also, most probably, because their postcode does not include nearby areas such as the North Yorkshire stockbroker belt or the Cotswolds. Aberdeen, in contrast, has some multimillionaires: beneficiaries of the oil boom with an Aberdeen postcode who live some distance from that city. With Manchester it is hard not to speculate that a few extra footballers may have tipped it over the limit.
The Eurozone crisis has made monetary issues the focal point of political debate about the nature of the European Union, not just within members of the common currency but across the 27 states that constitute the EU. Discussions about emergency bailouts and transfers to support struggling economies have distorted the public perception of the costs and benefits of the Union.
The actual EU budget is based on a multiannual financial framework, negotiated among the individual members and agreed upon at the level of European institutions. The current financial framework covers the period 2007–2013. Negotiations for the framework from 2014 to 2020 are under way. These discussions are greatly influenced by the implications of the current crisis. In a feature for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (September 2012, Volume 3, Issue 2) Danny Dorling and I looked at the current financial framework and how the money is redistributed across the member states.
Ahead of this year’s vote we had a look at the geography of the 2008 London mayoral election. In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (April 2012, Volume 3, Issue 1) Danny Dorling and I analysed the patterns of first-preference votes at the last election in the UK’s capital city.
The map series that I created for this feature displays the distribution of first preference votes shares for each respective party that put up a candidate. This allows not only to see the eventual outcome (which resulted in the then mayor Ken Livingstone of Labour being put into second place but the current mayor Boris Johnson of the Conservatives), but also gave an impression of the distribution of preferences for the smaller political parties within the city, as most voters put their main party preference into their first vote, while giving their second preference to a stronger candidate of the larger parties. The maps are based on a gridded population cartogram of London (as featured in the London in Maps book). This is a preview of the maps that we created for the article (a larger version of this map can be found here):
Amid Europe’s debt crisis it remains less noticed that the largest mountain of debt in the world is piled up across the big pond in the United States of America. The topic will be critically debated in US politics as presidential elections are due in 2012. In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2011, Volume 2, Issue 3) Danny Dorling and I took a closer look at the foreign liabilities of America’s debt.
The map we created for this feature is a cartogram with the world’s countries resized according to the total amount of US treasury securities that are held in each country (as shown in data from July 2011). This is a preview of the maps that we created for the article:
According to recent estimates by the UN, the world’s population will reach 7 billion some time this year, and rise to over 10 billion by 2100. In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (September 2011, Volume 2, Issue 2) Danny Dorling and I show where the population is growing and where it is declining.
The map we created for this feature shows not only the growth and decline in relation to the global population distribution, but also highlights the places that are in growth an decline in two separate maps. This is a preview of the maps that we created for the article: