Plus: The richest of the rich hold 30.4% of all household wealth in the U.S., while the bottom 50% hold just 1.9%

By Rachel DeSantis
October 09, 2020 03:40 PM
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Jeff Bezos
| Credit: SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 20: Founder/chairman/CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, speaks onstage during "The Prime of Mr. Jeff Bezos" at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on October 20, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)

As millions of Americans lost their jobs and were forced to turn to the government for help, the rich kept getting richer, according to new data from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Billionaires in the U.S. like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have watched their fortunes grow this year, even as the economy tanked due to widespread lockdowns meant to help control the spread of coronavirus.

The top 1% of Americans currently have a combined net worth of $34.2 trillion, while the bottom 50% of the population have a net worth valued at just $2.1 trillion, according to Forbes.

That means that the richest of the rich hold 30.4% of all household wealth in the U.S., while the bottom 50% hold just 1.9%, the outlet reported.

To put it further in perspective, the 50 richest people in America were worth $339 billion at the start of 2020. Now, they’re worth almost $2 trillion, Bloomberg reported.

“The pandemic is further widening divides in wealth and economic mobility,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said, according to Bloomberg. “A long period of unnecessarily slow progress could continue to exacerbate existing disparities in our economy.”

Millions of Americans lost their jobs when the coronavirus first gripped the U.S. in March, and some 25.5 million people are still getting some form of unemployment help from the government, Forbes reported.

But billionaires like Tesla's Musk and Amazon's Bezos have seen their pockets grow as the year stretched on — Musk’s wealth increased by 242% over the year’s first eight months, while Bezos became $65 billion wealthier this year, according to the outlet.

The coronavirus — which has left more than 212,000 Americans dead — has disproportionately affected people of color, and many people who have lost their jobs are low-wage workers in the tourism and service industries, often unable to work from home.

According to Bloomberg, upper-middle class professionals who are able to work from home have only seen their retirement accounts rise in value thanks to the impact of stimulus from the U.S. Treasury and Fed on the stock market.

“If we don’t support people who have lost their jobs, then they can’t pay their bills, and then it ripples through the economy, and the downturn is much worse than it needs to be,” Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, told Forbes.