In the United States, the share of total household wealth owned by the wealthiest 0.00001 percent has grown tenfold since 1982, according to a new paper by economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.
‘Wealth concentration has increased particularly fast during the Covid-19 pandemic,’ they write.
The richest 0.00001 percent of the US consisted of 18 individuals with a net worth exceeding $50 billion in wealth in 2021, which was a banner year for the ultra-wealthy.
In the United States, the share of total household wealth owned by the wealthiest 0.00001 percent has grown tenfold since 1982, rising especially quickly last year
Tesla CEO Elon Musk added $121 billion to his fortune last year, the largest in the world at $277 billion as the year ended
‘Top-end wealth is large relative to the economy, and therefore a sizable potential tax revenue source,’ write Saez and Zucman, who argue in favor of a wealth tax like the one famously proposed by Senator Elizabeth Warren.
The economists argue that prior attempts at a wealth tax in Europe failed because they targeted the well-to-do instead of the extreme wealthiest.
They also note that the taxes were easily evaded by moving abroad, as most European countries do not tax their citizens worldwide as the US does.
In 2021, the world’s 10 richest people added about $402 billion to their collective net worth.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk added $121 billion to his fortune, the largest in the world at $277 billion as the year ended, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who started the year in the top spot, sank to number two, adding a mere $4.54 billion to his net worth, which stood at $195 billion.
Economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman argue that a hypothetical wealth tax (blue) would rectify inequality in the tax code
After Musk, French billionaire Bernard Arnault, the founder of luxury goods company LVMH and currently the third richest man in the world, had the largest gains for the year, adding $61.3 billion to his fortune.
For Musk, it was an eventful year, marked by a hosting appearance on Saturday Night Live, a break-up with girlfriend Grimes, and his self-coronation as ‘Technoking’ of Tesla.
Musk made huge waves last month as he sold off many billions worth of his Tesla stock in a move purportedly dictated by a poll he posted on Twitter.
In reality, at least some of the stock sales were driven by mandatory taxes as he exercised stock options that will expire in August.
He has sold $16.4 billion worth of shares since early November when he said he would sell 10 percent of his Tesla stock if Twitter users agreed, which they did.
But Musk in September had set up a prearranged plan for stock sales related to options expiring next year, and Tesla in a filing on last month said the program was complete.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos , who started 2021 in the top spot, sank to number two, adding a mere $4.54 billion to his net worth, which stood at $195 billion
Musk said last week that he would be done selling shares after his programmed sales ended, meaning that the selloff is now complete.
In total, Musk has sold 15.7 million shares in Tesla late in this year, approximately the 10 percent stake the billionaire had pledged to sell.
Elsewhere on the top-10 billionaires list, Microsoft founder Bill Gates added $7.13 billion to his fortune, the fourth largest in the world at $139 billion.
Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin added $47.4 billion and $45.1 billion to their net worths respectively.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gained $24.3 billion for the year, bringing his total to $128 billion, though his fortunes have declined as Facebook stock is down 9 percent since a whistleblower leaked damaging documents this fall.
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gained $41.2 billion in 2021, and Warren Buffett added $21.4 billion.
Larry Ellison, the executive chairman of Oracle, added $28.8 billion to his wealth.
For most of the world’s wealthiest, the vast majority of their net worth is in stock, and their gains have been driven by booming markets.