Geography of Billionaires: Mapping Nationalities and Residency

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Forbes recently released an updated list of the world’s billionaires.  The listing contains the ranking for 1,226 individuals and families who’s net worth as of March of 2012 was 1 billion USD or more.  Since the listings contained both a country of citizenship and residence, this allows for a peek at the geography of billionaires.  Billionaire listings that had a publicly available residence noted were geocoded based on the location using Google Maps geocoding API.  The GIS analysis and maps that follow in this article is based on those geolocated billionaires and the stated citizenship.  A link has been placed at the end of this article to a page containing two tables: one of the counts of billionaires by country for residency and nationality, the second table contains counts of the number of billionaires per place.

This article has three components: this page contains the descriptive statistics and cartogram maps about where billionaires live and come from.  There is a second page containing interactive maps of billionaires created using Google Fusion Tables showing aggregate data of billionaire residency by country, location, and the individual locations based on residency.  The second part of that part lists . tabular data for Billionaires by Country for Residency and Citizenship and by City.

Of the 1,226 entries on the global billionaire list, 1,207 were able to be geocoded based on the city/place and country of residence listed.  Of the remaining 19 entries, two were not geocoded because the person’s had died in March of 2012 as the list was being prepared by Forbes.  Chaleo Yoodiya (#205) died of natural causes on March 17 at the age of 89, and Minoro Mori (#683) died on Mach 8th of heart failure at the age of 77.  The other seventeen entries had no publicly disclosed residence and therefore were not included in the analyses involving residency.

Nationalities of Billionaires

The list of 1,226 billionaires represents citizenry from 59 countries*.  The United States, by far, has the highest number of billionaires with 425 on the list, more than four times the number of the second ranked country, Russia which boasts 96 billionaires.  China is not far behind with 95 billionaires (not including Hong Kong).

Top Ten Countries of Citizenship for Billionaires
425United States
38Hong Kong
36United Kingdom

The distribution of citizenry among billionaires lends itself well to representation using area cartograms given the global disparity in wealth (for more information about cartogram maps including free GIS tools for making them visit Area Cartogram Maps Explored).  The most dominant countries in terms of the number of billionaire nationals occur across Europe and Asia, along with the United States, Brazil, and Russia.  The continent of Africa virtually disappears in this cartogram with only Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa with billionaire nationals.

Cartogram map of the distribution of billionaires based on citizenship. Those countries with more than ten billionaires as citizens have been labeled with the total number in parentheses.  Click on image for larger map.
Cartogram map of the distribution of billionaires based on citizenship. Those countries with more than ten billionaires as citizens have been labeled with the total number in parentheses. Click on image for larger map.

Where Do Billionaires Live?

Most billionaires stick close to home when it comes to choosing their main residence.  1098 (90%) of the 1207 mapped billionaires live within the country of their citizenship.  Of the 108 billionaires that live in a country other than their country of citizenship, Switzerland with 28 billionaires, is the most popular choice.  Followed by the United Kingdom where 10 billionaires make their home in London, England.

Overall, the United States again leads the way with 422 billionaires in residence, followed by China with 102 on the mainland and another 41 living within Hong Kong.  Russia ranks third with 91 billionaires in residence.

Cartogram map showing the global distribution of where billionaires live. Click on image for larger map.
Cartogram map showing the global distribution of where billionaires live. Those countries with ten or more billionaires in residence have been labeled. Click on image for larger map.

A cartogram of the number of residence per country at a global level again shows the disproportion of the spatial distribution of billionaires around the world.  As with the cartogram showing citizenship for billionaires, the continent of Africa nearly disappears due to the paucity of billionaires in residence.  Only Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt lay claim to the 14 billionaires living on the continent.  Conversely, the United States is grossly overrepresented in size, with 35% of the world’s billionaire’s in residence.

Within the United States, California leads the way with 99 billionaires in residence, followed by New York with 72, Texas with 48, and Florida with 29.  A cartogram of the United States visualizes the exaggerated effect that these top locations has on the distribution of billionaires across the country.

Cartogram map showing the number of billionaires in residence by state within the United States. Click on image for a larger map.
Cartogram map showing the number of billionaires in residence by state within the United States. Click on image for a larger map.

Although the United States ranks as both the number 1 country in terms of billionaires by citizenship and by residence, Moscow, Russia leads the way as the most common location for billionaires to reside.  All 76 of the billionaires that live in Moscow are of Russian citizenry.

What Places Do Billionaires Live In?

Despite the fact that the United States ranks number 1 both in terms of overall billionaire citizens and residents, the location with the highest number of residents is actually Moscow, Russia with 76 billionaires, all of whom are Russian nationals.  New York is next as the most populous location with 58 billionaires, followed by Hong Kong with 40.  A table showing the top twenty-five locations where billionaires live follows the map.

Map of Where Billionaires Live. Source: Forbes, March 2012.
Map of Where Billionaires Live. Source: Forbes, March 2012. Click on image for larger map.
Top 25 Locations for Billionaires to Reside In
 Top Locations# of
1Moscow, Russia78
2New York, NY58
3Hong Kong, Hong Kong40
4London, United Kingdom39
5Istanbul, Turkey31
6Mumbai, India20
7Sao Paulo, Brazil20
8San Francisco, CA18
9Los Angeles, CA16
10Beijing, China15
11Taipei, Taiwan15
12Paris, France14
13Seoul, South Korea14
14Shenzhen, China13
15Houston, TX12
16Tokyo, Japan12
17Beverly Hills, CA11
18Chicago, IL11
19Dallas, TX11
20Hamburg, Germany9
21Mexico City, Mexico9
22Palo Alto, CA9
23Fort Worth, TX8
24Greenwich, CT8
25Palm Beach, FL8

Next: A look at Cosmopolitanism among billionaires: understanding the relationship between citizenship and residency.


The United Kingdom ranks as the top country with the most diverse residency of billionaires in terms of citizenship.  The draw of London, England as an economic hub, is for the most part, responsible for the fifteen different nationalities (excluding British citizens) that make their home within the United Kingdom.

Top Countries with the Most Diversity in Nationalities
CountryTotal Nationalities
(excluding country of origin)
United Kingdom15
United States9
Hong Kong8
United Arab Emirates2

Of the 59 countries with billionaires among its citizens, three countries, Belize, Greece, and St. Kitts and Nevis, have no billionaires in residence.  Conversely, three countries: the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, and the Dominican Republic each have one billionaire in residence but no citizen billionaires.

Forty of the countries contain residences that are only of that country’s nationality.  There are fourteen countries where not only do all the billionaires in residence are made up entirely of citizens of that country, but those countries have no billionaires in residence anywhere else in the world.

Countries With Billionaires in Residence are Citizens Only
CountryNumber of

Almost all of the countries with billionaires in residence have a high proportion of billionaires that are homegrown.  Forty-five of the 62 countries with billionaires in residence have a 90% or higher rate of billionaires that are of the same nationality as the country they reside in.  On the low end, Monaco and Switzerland have only 20% of their billionaires in residence that are of that country’s nationality.

* Notes: Hong Kong and Macau, given that these regions are considered Special Administrative Regions of China, are treated separately in this analysis.  Likewise, Taiwan was analyzed separately from China.  The Isle of Man and Jersey were also listed as separate entities from the United Kingdom.  All citizenship information was extracted from the Forbes list.  

NEXT: Tables –> Total Counts of the World’s Billionaires by Country for Residency and Citizenship and Total Counts by Location for the World’s Billionaires by City

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