As hundreds of thousands of Americans struggle through the slow economic recovery caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a select few have gained billions of dollars in wealth.
Fifty-six individuals have joined the top ranks of America’s wealthiest citizens since COVID-19 has first hit the country in March, bringing the total of billionaires in the U.S. to 659, according to Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies, which collected data compiled by Forbes and shared the research with Investopedia.
Between March 18 and Dec. 22, the wealth held by these billionaires has jumped by more than $1.3 trillion to $4.08 trillion, the research stated.
New billionaires include several winners from the hottest IPOs of 2020, including Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky (real time worth: $12.5 billion), DoorDash CEO Tony Xu (real time worth: $3 billion), and Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman (real time worth: $2.2 billion).
Several of the richest people in the world in 2019 saw their fortunes expand in 2020. Those included Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (real time worth: $186.96 billion), Tesla CEO Elon Musk (real time worth: $144.68 billion), Microsoft founder Bill Gates (real time worth: $119.9 billion).
The world’s 500 richest people are now worth $7.6 trillion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. A key driver of billionaire wealth during the pandemic was the monetary policy response the Federal Reserve used to stabilize financial markets in the early days of the pandemic. At the time, the Federal Reserve promised low rates and open-ended liquidity, prompting the stock market’s rise. Another contributor to the wealth creation was the global move toward work-from-home policies that led to a shift in economic activity that favored technology firms.
However, 2020’s global pandemic also likely pushed as many as 115 million people into extreme poverty, according to The World Bank. Eight out of 10 of the "new poor" live in middle-income countries.
In the U.S., 3.4 million people filed for unemployment during November, which is more than triple the amount filed during the same month in 2019. Approximately 25.7 million workers in the U.S. remain unemployed, out of work due to the pandemic, or have experienced a reduction in work hours or pay, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Charitable giving has increased 7.5% in the first half of 2020, according to a report from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project. In mid-December, MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, announced $4.2 billion in charitable giving.