A year ago, the Institute for Policy Studies published "Billionaire Bonanza 2020: Wealth Windfalls, Tumbling Taxes and Pandemic Profiteers," and began tracking billionaire wealth gains as unemployment surged. We teamed up with Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) to track the wealth growth of America's billionaires over the last year. This report summarizes the extraordinary growth in wealth of those now 657 billionaires based on real-time data from Forbes on March 18.
Here are highlights from the last 12 months of billionaire wealth growth:
The combined wealth of the nation's 657 billionaires increased more than $1.3 trillion, or 44.6%, since the pandemic lockdowns began. [Master Table] Over those same 12 months, more than 29 million Americans contracted the virus and more than 535,000 died from it. As billionaire wealth soared over, almost 80 million lost work between March 21, 2020, and Feb. 20, 2021, and 18 million were collecting unemployment on Feb. 27, 2021.
There are 43 newly minted billionaires since the beginning of the pandemic, when there were 614. A number of new billionaires joined the list after initial public offerings (IPOs) of stock in companies such as Airbnb, DoorDash and Snowflake.
The increase in the combined wealth of the 15 billionaires with the greatest growth in absolute wealth was $563 billion or 82%. [See Table 1] The wealth growth of just these 15 represents over 40% of the wealth growth among all billionaires. Topping the list are Elon Musk ($137.5 billion richer, 559%), Jeff Bezos ($65 billion, 58%) and Mark Zuckerberg ($47 billion, 86%).
The 10 biggest "Pandemic Profiteers" saw the greatest percentage increase in their wealth — at least 300%. [See Table 2]
They mostly multiplied their fortunes in the world of online goods, services and entertainment, as forcibly homebound Americans shopped, invested and diverted themselves in isolation. They include the owners of ecommerce leaders Quicken Loans, Square, Carvana, and cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase; social media sites Snapchat and Twitter; online streaming platform Roku; and digital ad agency Trade Desk. Nineteen other billionaires experienced increases of over 200% while 48 others more than doubled their fortunes with 100% + gains.