Is America really as rich as people think?

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The greater the difference between a country’s mean and median wealth, the greater divide there is between rich and poor, according to Kenneth Thomas, a political science professor at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, who publishes the Middle Class Political Economist blog. If we look only at median wealth, the U.S. is the 27th-richest country on earth, just behind Slovenia, Thomas says.

Lately, we’ve heard several American billionaires and multi-millionaires push back against charges that the poor don’t receive a fair shot at our nation’s wealth. The U.S. is the land of plenty, they say, in large part because the rich create opportunities for us all. The data, however, tell a different story: In any number of countries, people have a greater shot at acquiring wealth –– that is, getting ahead and living in prosperity –– than in the U.S.

It’s time we think long and hard about who we are as a nation –– and how we can improve opportunities and raise living standards for the poor and even our middle class, for whom debt is a crushing burden that will only grow heavier from one generation to the next.

Top 10 countries by mean wealth
Country              Mean wealth per adult

1. Switzerland              $512,562
2. Australia                   402,578
3. Norway                     380,473
4. Luxembourg               315,940
5. United States              301,140
6. Sweden                     299,441
7. France                      295,933
8. Singapore                  281,764
9. Denmark                  255,066
10. Belgium                   255,066

Top 10 countries by median wealth
Country                Median wealth per adult

1. Australia                  $219,505
2. Luxembourg               182,768
3. Belgium                    148,141
4. France                      141,850
5. Italy                        138,653
6. United Kingdom          111,524
7. Japan                       110,294
8. Iceland                     104,733
9. Switzerland                 95,916
10. Finland                     95,095
27. United States             44,911

Source: 2013 Global Wealth Databook, a publication of the Credit Suisse Research Institute.

Scott Brinton is senior editor of the Bellmore and Merrick Heralds and an adjunct professor at the Hofstra University Graduate Journalism Program. Comments? or (516) 569-4000 ext. 203. Brinton’s profile and posts can be found at

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