Billionaires have added $1.3 trillion to their net worths during the pandemic – a 44% increase from March 2020

Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man and one of the US’ centi-billionaires. Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

American billionaires have added $US1.3 ($2) trillion to their collective net worths since March 2020, according to a new report from the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) and Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF).

Using data from Forbes, the report finds that billionaires have seen a 44% increase in wealth since March 18, 2020. The collective worth of American billionaires as of February 19 was $US4.3 ($5) trillion. In the US, the bottom half of the population holds around $US2.4 ($3) trillion in collective wealth.

Another pandemic development is the addition of more centi-billionaires, or billionaires worth over $US100 ($125) billion. Bill Gates and Elon Musk joined Jeff Bezos in that elite club, while Mark Zuckerberg falls just short at around $US96 ($120) billion.

Billionaires globally have seen gains throughout the pandemic

The gains are part of a wider trend. In January, an Oxfam report found that the world’s billionaires had seen their wealth increase by $US3.9 ($5) trillion from March 18, 2020 to December 30, 2020. 

That report found that billionaires recouped all initial pandemic losses by November – and that their collective gains could both subsidize the whole world’s vaccines and prevent everyone from falling into poverty. That same report anticipated that recovery for those at the bottom could take up to a decade.

The IPS/ATF report finds that billionaires’ gains could pay for about two-thirds of President Biden’s $US1.9 ($2) trillion stimulus package. 

Globally, workers lost $US3.7 ($5) trillion in earnings during the pandemic, according to a report from the International Labour Organization. American workers were dealt the biggest blow, seeing a 10.3% decline.

The Oxfam report said that one step “towards a better world” would be a wealth tax and an end to tax dodging. However, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently told The New York Times that a wealth tax similar to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposal would have implementation problems – although Yellen said she is looking into other potential tax routes.

“It is unseemly that billionaires have experienced such gains as we mark a half a million lives lost and millions more who have lost their health, wealth and jobs,” Chuck Collins, the report’s coauthor and director of the Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies, said in a press release. “Taxing those who have experienced windfall wealth gains to pay for Covid relief and recovery is a matter of equity and justice.”