Some billionaires are getting richer much faster than others, however. The pandemic has accelerated a growing divergence in wealth between innovators in technology, healthcare and industry, and entrepreneurs in areas such as entertainment, financial services and real estate, the report said.
That contrasts with most of the past decade “when steady growth and buoyant asset prices lifted billionaire wealth in all sectors,” it added. Now, billionaires “on the wrong side” of technological and social trends are becoming relatively less wealthy.
This polarization between “innovator billionaires” and the rest comes at the end of a decade in which the number of billionaires has doubled and total wealth almost tripled. “In the last two years those using technology to change their business models, products and services have pulled ahead. The Covid-19 crisis just accentuated this divergence,” the report said.
During 2018, 2019 and the first seven months of 2020, technology billionaires’ total wealth increased 43% to $1.8 trillion, while healthcare billionaires enjoyed a 50% surge to $659 billion. Billionaires as a whole saw an increase of 19% over the same period, with those in financial services, entertainment, materials and real estate recording increases of 10% or less.
A recent report from the Institute for Policy Studies, a think tank, finds that over the past two decades the growth in US billionaire wealth has been 200 times greater than the growth in median wealth.
According to the UBS report, billionaires are giving away more of their wealth than ever before. Some 209 billionaires publicly pledged $7.2 billion between March and June, including in financial donations and manufactured goods.
“It’s early days, but billionaires may well be at a turning point, putting renewed energy and wealth into tackling the environmental and social problems that the pandemic and recent natural disasters have highlighted,” the report said.
According to the Institute for Policy Studies, the tax obligations of America’s billionaires measured as a percentage of their wealth decreased 79% between 1980 and 2018.