The study analysed Forbes’ data and found that there was a collective increase of $434 billion in the net worth of the billionaires, increasing from $2.948 trillion to $3.382 trillion during the period.
COVID-19 impact in US: As people all over the world struggled with the economical impact of coronavirus, billionaires in the US saw financial gains even during the lockdown, a study published on Thursday by two think tanks found. A report by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) found that the over 600 billionaires in the US saw a 15% increase in their total net worth between March 18 and May 19 this year, during which time the US had been placed under the lockdown due to COVID-19.
The study analysed Forbes’ data and found that there was a collective increase of $434 billion in the net worth of the billionaires, increasing from $2.948 trillion to $3.382 trillion during the period. Out of these, the wealth of top five US billionaires – Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, social media giant Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison – rose 19% by $75.5 billion.
The report further found that the five bigwigs accounted for 21% of the wealth growth among all the US billionaires in the last two months. Moreover, just Zuckerberg and Bezos together accounted for 14% of the total wealth growth among the billionaires.
The stocks of Amazon and Facebook kept surging during the pandemic as the companies kept announcing new products and features that people would use during the lockdown due to lack of options.
On the other hand, millions lost their jobs as businesses were closed to prevent the virus from spreading. The housing industry and manufacturing sector also witnessed major slowdown due to the crisis.
What else does the report say?
The think tanks’ report gave an individual analysis of the top five billionaires, of which the wealth of Facebook co-founder Zuckerberg rose the most in relative terms, witnessing an increase of 46.2% in his net worth from $54.7 billion in March 18 to $80 billion in May 19. However, Bezos saw the biggest jump in absolute terms, with his wealth increasing by $34.6 billion during the two-month period.
While Bill Gates’ net worth rose by $8 billion or 8.2%, Larry Ellison’s wealth increased by $7 billion, which accounted for an 11.9% rise in his wealth. Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet saw the least jump in absolute and relative terms among the top five billionaires, adding $564 million to his net worth, accounting for 0.8% increase.
The think tanks’ report further cited Forbes’ list to state that while in March, US billionaires stood at 614, this figure rose to 630 by May, even as the country was placed under lockdown for most of the period. During the same time frame, the think tanks stated, over 38 million people in the US lost their jobs due to the pandemic, while another 1.5 million caught the infection and over 90,000 died due to it.
The report also added that there are also over 16 million Americans who have probably lost their employer-provided healthcare coverage, further observing that while low-wage workers, women and people of colour are suffering severely at the hands of the combined medical and economic crises during this time, the benefiting billionaires are “overwhelmingly white men”.