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It's a Billionaire's Thanksgiving: Wealth of Richest Surges Past $1 Trillion Since Pandemic Hit

The combined wealth of U.S. billionaires has grown 34 percent since March 2020.

Billionaire Elon Musk, Tesla boss, comes to the construction site of the Tesla Giga Factory earlier this year. (Photo: Patrick Pleul/dpa-Zentralbild/ZB)

Billionaire Elon Musk, Tesla boss, comes to the construction site of the Tesla Giga Factory earlier this year. (Photo: Patrick Pleul/dpa-Zentralbild/ZB)

Tuesday, November 24, as the Dow crossed the 30,000 mark, the wealth of 650 U.S. billionaires approached a total of $4 trillion, with $1 trillion in growth since March 2020.

Of this group, 29 billionaires have seen their wealth double since March 2020. There are 36 additional billionaires in the U.S. since March 2020. There are 47 new individuals on the list, with 11 going off the list due to death or financial decline.

Some of the big gains include:

  • Elon Musk’s wealth grew over $100 billion since the start of the pandemic, from $24.6 billion on March 18 to $126 billion on November 24, an increase of 413%, boosted by his Tesla stock. His wealth now surpasses Bill Gates of Microsoft
  • Jeff Bezos’s wealth grew almost $70 billion from $113 billion on March 18 to $182.4 billion.
  • Dan Gilbert, chairman of Quicken Loans, saw his wealth rocket by over $37 billion, from $6.5 billion in March to $43.9 billion on November 24, 2020, an increase of 575 percent.

Find our up-to-date analysis of billionaire wealth here.

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The almost $4 trillion owned by U.S. billionaires is about 3.5 percent of all privately held wealth in the U.S., estimated at $112 trillion. Billionaire wealth is twice the amount of wealth held by the bottom 50 percent of households combined, roughly 160 million people.

According to the Federal Reserve, 2020 Second Quarter Distribution of Financial Accounts, the distribution of $112 trillion in total private wealth is this: The top 1% has $34.23 trillion; The top 90-99 percentile have 43.09The 50-90 percentile have $32.65 trillion; and, the bottom 50% have $2.08 trillion.

This is not normal or predetermined by any means. According to IPS analysis, U.S. billionaires saw their fortunes decline in the years after the 2008 Great Recession along with everyone else. It wasn’t until almost 4 years later, in September 2012, that the total wealth of the Forbes 400 exceeded its 2008 pre-Great Recession levels (see below).

Forbes 400 Total Wealth

Chuck Collins

Chuck Collins

Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies where he co-edits Inequality.org, and is author of the new book, "Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good."  He is co-founder of Wealth for the Common Good, recently merged with the Patriotic Millionaires. He is co-author of "99 to 1: The Moral Measure of the Economy" and, with Bill Gates Sr., of "Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes."

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