Billionaires’ Wealth Surged to Record During Pandemic, Piketty Lab Says
The share of global wealth held by billionaires surged to a record during the Covid-19 crisis, according to a group founded by French economist Thomas Piketty.
About 2,750 billionaires control 3.5% of the world’s wealth, the Paris-based Global Inequality Lab said in a report Tuesday. That’s up from 1% in 1995, with the fastest gains coming since the pandemic hit, the group said. The poorest half of the planet’s population owns about 2% of its riches.
The study’s findings add to a debate about worsening inequality during a public health crisis that’s hurt developing economies -- which are short of vaccines as well as financial resources to cushion the blow -- even more than advanced ones. Within the rich world too, financial and real-estate markets have soared since the depths of the slump last year, widening domestic gaps.
Those pandemic trends come after decades of policy that was often geared toward people at the top, on the expectation that it would “trickle down” and everyone else would ultimately benefit too, according to Lucas Chancel, one of the report’s authors.
“There is really this polarization on top of a world that was already very unequal before the pandemic,” Chancel, co-director of the World Inequality Lab, said in an interview. He said billionaires accumulated 3.6 trillion euros ($4.1 trillion) of wealth during a crisis in which the World Bank estimates that some 100 million people have fallen into extreme poverty.