How Generous Are America’s Wealthiest Individuals?

Mother Teresa once said, "If you can't feed 100 people, then feed just one." Apparently, America's richest folks took her advice to heart -- well, the last part of it, anyway. In 2018, the wealthiest 10 people in the country gave away less than 1 percent of their wealth, according to research by Gabriel Zucman, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley.

In 2018, the top 10 wealthiest individuals in America donated an average of 0.94% of their net worth.
In 2018, the top 10 wealthiest individuals in America donated an average of 0.94% of their net worth.

While three of the billionaires donated more than 1 percent, three others gave nothing. The biggest donors were Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, and businessman Michael Bloomberg. Buffett and Gates are also among wealthy individuals who have signed the so-called "Giving Pledge," a non-binding agreement to give away the majority of one's riches before or after one's death. More than 200 others from all around the world have signed the pledge, as of 2020. For his research, Zucman relied on data from Forbes, including its 2018 list of "America's Top 50 Givers."

Who wants to be a billionaire:

  • The combined worth of the world's 2,150 billionaires is approximately $10 trillion, or more than the combined wealth of 60 percent of the rest of the world.

  • The world's richest person is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who earns an average of nearly $2,500 every second.

  • The worth of America's billionaires has increased by 10.6 percent since Donald Trump became president in 2017.


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