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 or Russia in the mid-1990s, when some state employees made fortunes overnight as the state privatized assets.
The researchers found that some countries had a much higher proportion of billionaire wealth that was due to political connections than others did. As the graph below, which ranks only countries that appeared in all four of the Forbes billionaire lists they analyzed, shows, Colombia, India, Australia and Indonesia ranked high on the list, while the U.S. and U.K. ranked very low.
How much wealth comes from political connections?
A new measure of wealth inequality adds together the wealth of all the billionaires in a country and divides that by the country’s GDP. The figures below show what percentage of that wealth is due to political connections.
Fraction of wealth that is politically connected
100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%
Data is for countries with billionaires appearing in the Forbes magazine annual list of billionaires in each of the years studied (1987, 1992, 1996, 2002)
Source: Sutirtha Bagchi and Jan Svejnar
Looking at all the data, the researchers found that Russia, Argentina, Colombia, Malaysia, India, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea and Italy had relatively more politically connected wealth. Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K. all had zero politically connected billionaires. The U.S. also had very low levels of politically connected wealth inequality, falling just outside the top 10 at number 11.
When the researchers compared these figures to economic growth, the findings were clear: These politically connected billionaires weighed on economic growth. In fact, wealth inequality that came from political connections was responsible for nearly all the negative effect on economic growth that the researchers had observed from

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