In This Review

Rich People, Poor Countries: The Rise of Emerging-Market Tycoons and Their Mega Firms
Rich People, Poor Countries: The Rise of Emerging-Market Tycoons and Their Mega Firms
By Caroline Freund
Peterson Institute for International Economics, 2016, 200 pp.

The mass media are always happy to feed the public’s appetite for details about how the rich and famous live. Much rarer is the kind of careful analysis of the sources and consequences of great wealth that Freund offers in this book. She relies on Forbes’ annual list of billionaires and focuses on those who hail from developing countries. There were 705 developing-world billionaires in 2014, up from 102 in 2001. The vast majority of these ultrarich are self-made, rather than people who inherited their wealth. Most founded or managed new companies that grew rapidly in terms of sales and employment, thus contributing to the overall economic growth of the countries where they were established. But the emergence of billionaires has also contributed to the rise of income inequality in the countries of the developing world, which Freund views as a logical consequence of rapid economic growth and changing economic structures—even while, from a global point of view, inequality falls, as more and more people escape poverty or join the ranks of new middle classes.