Millionaires Galore

The global financial crisis has shifted the economic landscape, with some traditionally rich regions losing economic influence — while emerging economies continue to gain wealth. We wonder: After the United States, Japan and Germany, which country has the most millionaires?

A. Switzerland
B. France
C. China
D. Brazil

A. Switzerland is not correct.

Although it has long been known as a haven for the world's wealthy, Switzerland is not the country with the most millionaires. According to Capgemini and Merrill Lynch, the country has 185,000 millionaires (as of the end of 2008) — down from 212,000 in 2007. This ranks the country eighth in the world in terms of its number of millionaires.

However, on a per-capita basis, Switzerland leads the world. About one in 40 people in the country is a millionaire (defined as an individual having investable assets of $1 million or more, excluding primary residences and belongings). This compares with ratios of 1:90 in Japan, 1:125 in the United States, 1:1,500 in Brazil and 1:3,700 in China.

B. France is not correct.

France has 346,000 millionaires, ranking sixth in the world. It has fared the financial crisis better than some of its European counterparts, with its number of millionaires declining just 13% in 2008. This compares with a fall of 26% in the United Kingdom, whose economy depends heavily on financial services. In contrast, Germany's number of millionaires decreased just 3%.

Overall, in 2008 the world's population of millionaires declined 15% to 8.6 million — with their wealth falling 20% to $33 trillion. As a result, the world's millionaire population and its wealth ended 2008 below levels seen at the end of 2005.

C. China is correct.

With 364,000 millionaires, China ranks fourth in the world. In 2008, it surpassed the United Kingdom, after having exceeded France in 2007. China's strong performance in the midst of the economic crisis is due in part to the relatively closed nature of its markets and robust overall economic growth.

However, China is far behind third-place Germany, which has 810,000 millionaires. In comparison, second-place Japan has 1,366,000 — while the United States has 2,460,000 millionaires. Indeed, despite a 19% decline in its number of millionaires in 2008, the United States still accounts for 29% of the world's millionaires.

D. Brazil is not correct.

With 131,000 millionaires, Brazil overtook Australia and Spain to rank tenth in the world. It is thus the strongest performer in Latin America — and is likely to further improve its performance once the U.S. and Asian economies rebound.

However, two of Brazil's BRIC counterparts have not fared as well. India's millionaire population declined 32% to 84,000, the second-largest decline in the world. In comparison, the number of millionaires in Russia fell by 29% to 97,000, the seventh-largest decline in 2008.

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