Say we estimated the value of all assets (money, stocks, bonds, property, etc.) in the world.

Next we estimate the wealth of all the individuals in the world.

Would the two resulting values be similar or substantially different? If they would be substantially different, then why?

I am happy for people answering the question to use the definition of wealth they feel is most appropriate.

  • $\begingroup$ Well they will be the same as that is trivially true - wealth is in literature most often measured as a the present value of net assets. So if you look for some empirical measurement of wealth in literature then they will be calculated just as a net present value of net assets. If you then measure net assets again then it should match. If you have some different measurement of wealth in mind then you should make it part of your question $\endgroup$
    – 1muflon1
    Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ @1muflon1 I think the question could be interesting precisely because in theory assets and wealth are the same thing. However, the way we typically measure wealth (or assets) need not be the same. It is far from my field, so I cannot provide any insights. But I think the question could be interesting. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ @brunosalcedo I agree but I also think that it lacks some clarity about it. Also it would be too broad for an answer here to go over all different historic ways how wealth was ever estimated. It would help a lot if OP would just make explicitly clear what other measure of wealth this should be contrasted to. $\endgroup$
    – 1muflon1
    Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 14:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @1muflon1 I don't believe it is trivially true due the ownership of some assets by companies, governments and other organisations. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ @BarnabyGolden right but all companies and other organizations belong to the people - a piece of building or machinery cannot own anything - if you are asking if there would be difference when comparing wealth of private individuals excluding holding of wealth by any organizations then the answer would be again trivial but this time no. Same answer if you want to compare wealth hold by private individuals and their owned organizations to total wealth that would include governments. I think you should make it bit clear exactly what you want to know here $\endgroup$
    – 1muflon1
    Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 14:22

1 Answer 1


As currently written, the question asks whether the value of all assets equals the wealth of individuals. This is trivially not the case, since assets can be liabilities of another entity.

As an example, imagine an economy in which one individual owns both an industrial firm and a bank. The bank can make a loan to the firm, and both entities’ balance sheets grow - the bank gets a loan asset, the firm gets a new deposit at the bank. This means that the total value of all assets increases by double the amount of the loan. However, the act of taking out a loan and not spending it does not increase the value of a corporation, and so individual owning the two banks has no increase in wealth.


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