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Report: Americans are rich? Not so fast

PHOENIX -- A recent report has the average wealth of an American adult at $301,000, but it isn't quite telling the whole story.

The report, released by Credit Suisse Global Wealth, ranks the U.S. fourth on the list of average net worth.

But the median wealth of Americans is just shy of $45,000, ranking the U.S. at No. 19 -- below Japan, Canada, Australia and much of western Europe, CNN reported.

"Americans tend to think of their middle class as being the richest in the world, but it turns out, in terms of wealth, they rank fairly low among major industrialized countries," said Edward Wolff, a New York University economics professor who studies net worth.

Part of the discrepancy? The super rich Americans. Those with extreme wealth "skew average wealth upwards." Of the entire world's millionaires, 42 percent live in the U.S. and 49 percent of those have over $50 million in assets.

The other reason? The housing market. In many European countries, home ownership is quite high, leading to more assets for European residents. Many "average Americans" were hit hard by the housing collapse, which also led to a drop in median income.

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