America's billionaires got 44% richer during the pandemic while more than 80 million people in the US lost their jobs

  • There are 657 billionaires in America.
  • Their combined wealth grew by 44.6% during the pandemic, a study from the Institute for Policy Studies shows.
  • Meanwhile, 80 million people in the US lost their jobs from March 2020 to February 2021.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The combined wealth of America’s 657 billionaires grew by 44.6% — $1.3 trillion — during the pandemic.

That’s according to a new study released by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). The two organizations used information from Forbes to track the fortunes of America’s richest people for one year starting on March 18, 2020.

The difference between how America’s richest people and the rest of the country has fared in this time period is stark.

From March 2020 to February 2021, 80 million people in the US lost their jobs. Between June and November 2020, nearly 8 million Americans fell into poverty.

“The pandemic has created an astonishing rise in wealth for the nation’s billionaires while tens of millions of Americans fell further behind,” Frank Clemente, executive director of ATF, said in a statement. “Billionaires are living in a different world from the rest of us.”

Zooming in on billionaires’ rising fortunes in the pandemic year

Jeff Bezos, with his $183.9 billion fortune, is the richest man in the US and the world.

According to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index (which updates in near-real time), Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the cofounders of Google, have seen the biggest respective increases to their net worths among American billionaires since the pandemic broke out. From March 24, 2020, to March 24, 2021, Page added $11.8 billion to his $94.3 billion fortune. Brin’s $91.2 billion fortune has grown by $11.4 billion in the same time period.

Berkshire Hathaway CEO and chairman Warren Buffett has seen the third-biggest net-worth growth in this time. His $95.1 billion fortune got a $7.4 billion boost in the past year, per Bloomberg statistics.

The past year also saw the minting of 43 new billionaires in the US. Among those are Frank Slootman, CEO of tech giant Snowflake ($1.9 billion) and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky ($14.3 billion). Both Snowflake and Airbnb number among the many tech companies that went public during the pandemic.

As Insider’s Juliana Kaplan reported in February, wealthy Americans today pay one-sixth the rate of taxes their counterparts paid in 1953. But President Biden is reportedly getting more serious about taxing America’s richest, which could include raising taxes to nearly 40% for the country’s top income bracket.

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