The United States led the world in growth of financial assets last year thanks to tax cuts and booming stock markets, but its distribution of wealth was more unequal than in any other country, according to a study published Wednesday.
An annual tally by the German insurer Allianz of the world’s stocks, bonds, cash and other assets, and who owns them, also found that poor countries are no longer catching up with wealthier countries, reversing a trend. For the first time since 2000, there was a decline in the number of people worldwide considered middle class, as measured by their financial holdings.
And the world’s super rich are getting richer. The top 1 percent own 44 percent of financial assets, and the share is growing. “The super rich do indeed seem to be moving further and further away from the rest of society,” the Allianz study said.
The pandemic will only exacerbate the gulf between rich and poor, the authors of the study said. Declines in world trade will hurt developing countries the most, and poor people suffer more from strains on health care systems and public schools.
Per capital wealth in the United States grew more than 13 percent in 2019, to $245,000, in part because affluent Americans saved their tax cuts rather then spending the money, and because Americans are more likely than people in most other countries to buy stocks. The United States ranked ahead of Switzerland and Singapore in per capita wealth, but it was dead last in Allianz’s index ranking of wealth equality (a list headed by Slovakia, Belgium and Japan).