The international mobility of billionaires

Here is a new research article by me in the journal Small Business Economics. I rely on Forbes Magazine list of billionaires 1996-2010 to study the migration patterns of billionaires. Abstract:

“This paper uses data from Forbes Magazine’s list of billionaires, supplemented with other publicly available information, to study the migratory behavior of the very rich.

Billionaires are more likely to move to countries that share a language and a culture with their country of birth and to countries with larger markets, higher incomes, and lower capital taxes. In total, only 15 % of self-made billionaires— almost all of whom are entrepreneurs—migrated to another country. One explanation for the modest rate of migration may be the country-specificity of entrepreneurs’ human capital. Eight out of ten migrants select a destination country with higher per capita income than that of their birth country, and seven out of ten move to a country with lower capital taxes.”

Some findings:

“Small tax havens [sic] attract the already rich, while post-migration billionaires are drawn to wealthy, large markets, in particular the United States: 48 out of 56 billionaires who migrated to the United States are immigrant entrepreneurs who became rich after migrating. The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and China are also major destinations of immigrant entrepreneurs who earned their wealth in their country of destination. Hong Kong, Singapore, and Switzerland are small tax heavens which manage to attract both pre-migration rich and post-migration rich billionaires. While 22 % of post-migration rich billionaires migrated to countries defined by Hines (2010) as tax heavens, fully 51 % of the already rich migrants moved to tax heavens.”


“This paper has explored the international mobility of the world’s wealthiest individuals. The main findings are that billionaires are more likely to move to geographically proximate countries with cultural, linguistic, and political ties to their country of birth. Holding these factors constant, they are also more likely to move to richer nations and to countries with lower capital taxes. Billionaires who become rich only after migrating tend to be attracted to large markets and in particular to the United States. Billionaires who are already rich when they migrate are in contrast drawn particularly to small tax havens such as Switzerland and low-tax Caribbean countries….”

Those interested in the topic should read the whole thing.