The total number of billionaires exploded over the course of the coronavirus pandemic – and they individually became extraordinarily richer over the past 12 months.
That is according to a new report from Forbes, which each spring conducts one of the most complete analyzes of the state of the billionaire class around the world. Keeping track of the net worth of the wealthy is painstaking work that must be sorted through arcane archives – and the end results aren't perfect – but Forbes' estimates represent one of the best ways to cover the magnitude of income inequality in the world. And while it's easy to lose track of the numbers or think of the numbers as old news – & # 39; Billionaires remain billionaires & # 39; – the scale is of interest to anyone who wants to understand how much of a problem of wealth inequality really is.
The world is now home to 2,755 billionaires, a world record, and a surprising 30 percent increase over Forbes 'accounting last year from' the world's uber rich. And 86 percent of those billionaires are richer than a year ago. The list paints an exaggerated picture of some pandemic gains, as it compares current net worths to Forbes & # 39; last analysis mid-March 2020, when the market was yet to recover from the early pandemic sell-off.
The pandemic has revived the inequality debate, with countries like Argentina introducing a wealth tax, among other things similar proposals are gaining ground in the United States. Many Americans in the US have more personal income and savings than before the pandemic, partly thanks to unprecedented government stimulus measures. But at the same time, the demand for food pantries broke records and the economy cut about 10 million jobs. Billionaire philanthropists have played a central role in America's recovery.
Perhaps no statistic better captures the magnitude of the yawning inequality than that MacKenzie Scott, Jeff Bezos' former wife and one of the richest people in the world, probably gave more money directly to nonprofits in 2020 than anyone else in one. year. ever before. But because of Amazon's soaring stock price, actually ended the year richer, Forbes reports.
Forbes thinks the tech set, like Scott, did particularly well. Six of the 10 richest people in the world made their money from technology, and the total assets managed by all tech billionaires worldwide are $ 2.5 trillion, far more than any other industry. None of these figures include Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who is classified by Forbes as in the auto industry, but has driven Tesla & # 39; s extraordinary bull run to become the second richest person in the world.
That is all to say that the wealth inequality debate will lead nowhere, even as the pandemic fades. Check out Recode's recent coverage of how the coronavirus has made America more dependent on billionaires and our exclusive poll on how ordinary Americans feel about these central characters in American society.