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Ranks of Millionaires Still Soaring by 2017, Study Says

Tickers in this article: CS

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- You can't swing a crooked congressman this election season without hitting a reference to the "middle class."

That's not to blame politicians, nor a sideways slap at the middle class -- that's where the votes are, and that's where any potential turnaround lies if the U.S. economy is ever to fully regain its mojo.

But another U.S. economic demographic is quietly gaining strength: the "millionaire" club, one set to add a slew of members by 2017.

The data come from the global financial services firm Credit Suisse , which estimates the U.S. will have accumulated 16.9 millionaires by 2017, a 53% uptick from the 11 million Americans walking around with total assets of $1 million.

How is America producing so many millionaires?

Credit Suisse (CS) tries to answer that and a few other questions on the topic of worldwide consumer asset accumulation, in its Global Wealth Report 2012 . (Read the entire report here.)

The short answer is that economic prospects in the U.S. are projected to be stronger than elsewhere across the globe, especially the battered Eurozone. While Europe should add to its roster of millionaires, it will do so at a much slower pace than in the U.S.

A slightly different pattern is expected to play out in emerging economies such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China (the so-called "BRIC" countries), where growth in millionaires will at least match the U.S. rate, according to the Credit Suisse report, but end with significantly fewer of them in sheer numbers.

China, for example, will see a higher rate of growth than the U.S. in terms of fresh millionaires in the next five years, but its total amount will barely crest 2 million by 2017 -- light years behind the number of millionaires in the U.S.

The news isn't so bullish among the rest of the global economic class, which has seen a decline in total household wealth of 5.2% from last year, according to the study. Once again, Credit Suisse points the icy finger of guilt at Europe, which accounts for the lion's share of decline, with Asia coming in second.

Additionally, the U.S. economy seems to be spared a big decline in household wealth. The study points to "the relative stability of the U.S. economy" as a big reason the financial hit households in Bangladesh and Barcelona are taking won't be repeated in Boca Raton or Bakersfield.

While that's generally good news for the financially affluent here in the U.S. or across the globe, it may not translate into big gains for the middle class, a point Credit Suisse makes in its report.

"There's no question that the economic uncertainties of the past year -- particularly those affecting the Eurozone -- have cast a huge shadow over household wealth," say lead researchers Michael O'Sullivan and Richard Kersley in the study. "Our research confirms that economic recession in many countries combined with widespread equity price reductions and subdued housing markets have produced the worst environment for wealth creation since the financial crisis."