Billionaires around the world added $4 trillion to their wealth during the pandemic

Billionaires around the world added $4 trillion to their wealth during the pandemic
Spencer Platt / Staff / Getty Images
  • A new report from the Institute for Policy Studies analyzes billionaires' gains during the pandemic.
  • The world's 2,365 billionaires added $4 trillion to their collective wealth, it found.
  • A January Oxfam report said billionaires' global gains could pay for everyone's vaccine.

From March 18, 2020, to March 18, 2021, the world's billionaires added $4 trillion to their wealth, according to a new report from the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).

That's a 54% increase for the world's 2,365 billionaires, who now have $12.39 trillion. The wealthiest 20 billionaires alone added $742 billion to their collective wealth during a pandemic - a 68% increase.

A January Oxfam report, which tracked global billionaire gains through December 31, 2020, found that the world's billionaires had added $3.9 trillion to their wealth during the pandemic - an increase that could pay for the entire world's vaccinations and prevent anyone from falling into poverty. That report found that recovery for people at the bottom could take up to a decade, with 200 million to 500 million people falling into poverty in 2020.
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Now, according to the IPS report, which analyzes data from Forbes, Bloomberg, and Wealth-X, those billionaire gains have grown.

Renewed calls for a wealth tax

One of the Oxfam report's possible solutions for creating a "better world" was imposing a wealth tax.

The IPS report found that American billionaires account for less than a third of that total wealth. But a wealth tax like the one proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren - where households with a net worth of over $50 million would see a 2% tax, and those with over $3 billion would see a 3% tax - would still raise $120 billion per year, according to the report.
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From the end of 2019 to the end of 2020, the top 1% of Americans added just about $4 trillion to their wealth, while the bottom 50% held just $2.49 trillion in total household wealth by the end of 2020.

However, a wealth tax may still be a ways off in the US. President Joe Biden's new infrastructure package is paired with an accompanying tax hike. But that increase would only target corporations, raising the corporate tax from 21% to 28%, and seek to enact a global minimum tax rate of 21%. It leaves wealth individuals alone, for now, although Biden's administration has said it wants to tax households making $400,000 a year and up. "I'm open to other ideas, so long as they do not impose any tax increase on people making less than $400,000," Biden said in his speech introducing the package.
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