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BRICs Give US Cities a Millionaire-Inferiority Complex

Friday, 7 Dec 2012 | 10:17 AM ET
High-rise buildings at the river Minjiang, Fuzhou, Fujian province, China.
Thomas Roetting | LOOK | Getty Images
High-rise buildings at the river Minjiang, Fuzhou, Fujian province, China.

America is developing a millionaire-inferiority complex.

New data from WealthInsight shows that Beijing and Shanghai each have more multi-millionaires now than Los Angeles. The study measures the segment of the population worth $30 million or more, known in wealth-industry parlance as "ultra-high-net-worth individuals."

Beijing has 1,318 people in that group. Shanghai has 2,028. Both are higher than Los Angeles, which has 950 people worth $30 million or more.

New York still towers over the others when it comes to the ultra-highs, with 2,929 people worth $30 million or more. (Read more: More Than 300,000 Millionaires Would Go Off 'Cliff')

But the BRICS are catching up. Sao Paulo, Brazil, has 1,310 ultra-highs – more than San Francisco, Washington and Miami combined. Moscow is now on par with Chicago when it comes to ultra-highs, while Mumbai has more than Dallas.

The number of ultra-highs in secondary BRIC cities like Puna, Fuzhou and Chongqing could nearly double over the next four years.

The question, of course, is whether this rapid global shift in wealth from West to East and from developed to emerging markets, will continue on its current pace.

WealthInsight predicts that number of millionaires in the BRIC countries will grow by 76 percent by 2016. That's more than double the growth rate of the past four years.

It says India's millionaire population will more than double, to 511,000, while China's will grow by 82 percent and Brazil's will grow by 40 percent.

But it concedes that the economic slowdown in the BRICS and lower stock markets could temper that growth – especially in China. (Read more: US Cities That Mint Millionaires)

If fears over a Chinese hard landing were to fully materialize, the number of (millionaires) would be severely affected: asset prices would fall and wealth would be destroyed."

For now, however, it's good to be a millionaire (or future millionaire) in Fuzhou.

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  • A reporter and editor, Robert Frank is a leading authority on the American wealthy for CNBC.