The United States is frequently referred to as the richest country on the planet, but is it really, and what does that mean for its residents?
In order to understand how world wealth is analyzed, it’s important to take a look at the people and industries controlling the bulk of wealth, as well as their locations.
When looking at the numbers, the United States is indeed the richest country in the world in terms of monetary value and economic influence.
However, the country also has one of the world’s biggest wealth gaps among its citizens. On the global index, the United States’ wages and standards of living are lower than those of other nations.
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The total wealth of the US is considered to be about $126,340 (in USD billions). The wealth of the United States makes up about 30% of the total wealth in the world, while Northern America as a whole (including Canada but not including Mexico) is considered to make up 33%.
The United States is the richest country according to national net worth. This number is the total sum of a nation’s assets (industries, natural resources, technology, trading power, etc.), subtracting its liabilities (debts and recessions, for instance).
National net worth is strongly influenced by world events as well as fluctuating real estate prices and trade rates.
The bulk of the United States’ wealth comes from industry profits, much of it concerning the health and insurance industries.
The richest industries in the nation are as follows:
- Retirement and pension plans – $1.257.9 billion
- Health and medical insurance – $1.145.1 billion
- Drugs, cosmetics, and toiletries – $1.049.9 billion
- Hospitals and healthcare centers – $981 billion
- New car retail – $978.7 billion
- Life insurance and annuities – $886.7 billion
- Pharmaceuticals – $868.8 billion
The United States has far larger profit margins in health-related industries (including pharmaceuticals) than other countries.
This is largely due to the country being the only developed nation (first world status) that does not have a universal healthcare system in place.
The wealth that the United States is known for is a relatively newer occurrence in world history.
It wasn’t until the late 1800s that the country’s growing industrial sector propelled it to world superpower status.
It was at this time, in the late 19th Century, that the richest individuals in the United States (for example, businessmen Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan) also became the wealthiest in the world.
By 1920, the United States had the largest economic output and input, and the population had exploded thanks to an influx of immigration across all class levels.
Continued technological advancements and a strong tendency toward capitalist economics (as opposed to socialist and collective leaning policies) have helped the nation maintain a growing lead.
The United States has a strong lead when it comes to national net worth with $126,340 in USD BN (United States Dollars in billions).
The next five wealthiest nations in the world are as follows (as of 2022 data):
- China – $74,884 USD BN
- Japan – $26,931 USD BN
- Germany – $18,274 USD BN
- United Kingdom – $15,284 USD BN
- France – $14,948 USD BN
Despite being the country with the largest national net worth, the United States’ currency is not the strongest currency in the world as far as exchange rates go.
In the following countries, the US dollar is worth less than one unit of their national currency:
- Kuwait – 1 KWD = 3.26 USD
- Jordan – 1 JOD = 1.41 USD
- Cayman Islands – 1 KYD = 1.21 USD
- United Kingdom (and territories) – 1 GBP = 1.25 USD
- European Union (27 member states) – 1 EUR = 1.07 USD
Three of the five richest people on the planet all live (at least primarily) in the United States and also run their businesses out of US cities.
The top five richest people in the world are as follows:
- Elon Musk – $219 billion net worth
- Jeff Bezos – $139 billion net worth
- Bernard Arnault – $132 billion net worth
- Bill Gates – $127 billion net worth
- Gautam Adani – $120 billion net worth
There are 2,668 billionaires in the world (according to 2022 Forbes data). Although most live in Asian and Middle Eastern nations, the United States leads the world on an individual country scale with 735 billionaires.
American billionaires are worth a collective $4.7 trillion.
While the majority of the nation’s billionaires live in New York City and San Francisco, America’s richest cities are calculated by median income (strongest factor), employment rates, poverty rates, and property values.
With these factors in mind, the richest cities in the nation are:
- Southlake, Texas – $240,248 median household income
- Los Altos, California – $235,278 median household income
- University Park, Texas – $224,485 median household income
- McLean, Virginia – $207,184 median household income
- Westport, Connecticut – $206,444 median household income
The richest US states by median income are:
- Maryland – $86,738 median household income
- Massachusetts – $85,843 median household income
- New Jersey – $85,751 median household income
- Hawaii – $83,102 median household income
- California – $80,440 median household income
It’s worth noting that the states with the highest household incomes also tend to have the highest costs of living in the country.
If evaluated in Gross Domestic Product (GDP – the total monetary value of goods and industrial value), the richest state is New York with $93,463 per capita.
There is a large wealth gap in the United States that continues to grow in the 21st Century, and economic analysts estimate it will continue to widen.
The top five poorest states by median income are all in the southern United States:
- Mississippi – $45,792 median household income
- West Virginia – $48,850 median household income
- Arkansas – $48,952 median household income
- Louisiana – $51,073 median household income
- Alabama – $71,734 median household income
By GDP, the poorest state is Alabama with a per capita GDP of $49,027.
Salaries fluctuate frequently in the United States, but averages tend to creep up slowly over time.
As of 2022, someone who is employed and working full-time in the country earns an average of $94,700 USD per year.
This is calculated from full-time salary averages across the nation that range from $24,000 to $423,000 USD (these are only the highest and lowest averages, and the actual extremes go beyond them).
There are still many people living below the poverty line in the world’s richest nation, and the number tends to rise with every economic recession.
According to 2022 Census data, there are about 40 million people living in poverty in the United States.
The number rose by more than 3 million since 2019, the first rise in the country after five consecutive years of falling rates.