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SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses on the red carpet for the Axel Springer Awards ceremony, in Berlin, on December 1, 2020. (Photo: Britta Pedersen/AFP via Getty Images)

While 1 Million Americans Died From Covid-19, US Billionaire Wealth Shot Up by $1.7 Trillion

While billionaires have seen their wealth surge during the pandemic, millions have lost their lives and livelihoods.

As the U.S. crosses the grim milestone of 1 million deaths from COVID-19, U.S. billionaires have seen their combined wealth rise over $1.7 trillion, a gain of over 58 percent.

This troubling juxtaposition underscores the story of unequal loss and sacrifice during the worst pandemic in a century. While billionaires have seen their wealth surge during the pandemic, millions have lost their lives and livelihoods.

On March 18, 2020, at the beginning of the formal lockdown, U.S. billionaires held a combined $2.947 trillion. On May 4, 2022, as the U.S. crossed the 1 million death mark, according to an analysis by NBC, 727 U.S. billionaires were worth $1.71 trillion more, according to Forbes.

Elon Musk who had wealth valued just under $25 billion on March 18, 2020 has seen his wealth increase to $255 billion as of May 4, 2022.

Between March 18, 2020 and May 4, 2022, the following increases in wealth have occurred:

  • Jeff Bezos saw his wealth rise from $113 billion to $150 billion.
  • Bill Gates experienced a wealth increase from $98 billion to $129.8 billion.
  • Three members of the Walton family, Jim, Alice and Rob, have seen their combined assets rise from $163.1 billion to $207.7 billion.

At one point during the pandemic, billionaire wealth gains topped $2.1 trillion with market gains, according to an October 2021 report by Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies. Previous studies have tracked billionaire wealth gains over the last two years (See the IPS, inequality.org and ATF Billionaires).


© 2021 Institute for Policy Studies
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, with Bill Gates Sr., of "Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes."

Omar Ocampo

Omar Ocampo is a researcher for the Program on Inequality and the Common Good. He graduated from the University ofMassachusetts Boston with a B.A. in Political Science and holds a Masters in International Relations from the American University in Cairo. His thesis focused on the politics of international oil and humanitarian intervention in Libya.

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