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).