From January through May, 10.9% of the global population of 2,825 billionaires made confirmed monetary donations to Covid-19 pandemic-related causes, according to a report published Tuesday by Wealth-X, a market research firm covering the world’s wealthiest people.
Other billionaires could have given money through a third party or anonymously, a Wealth-X spokesperson tells CNBC Make It, and “more billionaires are expected to announce pledges in the second half of 2020,” according to the report. Some billionaires have also given “non-monetary contributions, such as personal protective equipment,” the Wealth X report says.
For instance, a Washington Post survey published in June found that public declarations of “money or in-kind contributions” to the fight against coronavirus from of the 50 richest people in the U.S. equated to less than 0.1% of their combined wealth.
However, some have given hundreds of millions of dollars or more: In April, for example, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey donated $1 billion worth of Square stock to charity, including Covid-19 related causes. (Dorsey is currently worth $6.81 billion, according to Bloomberg.) And Bill Gates has donated at least $350 million through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a spokesperson said on Tuesday. (Gates’ net worth is currently $112 billion.)
According to the Wealth-X report, taken as a group, the billionaires who confirmed giving money to Covid-19-related causes are wealthier and “quite a bit younger” than those who have not. (More than 15% of billionaires who have donated money are younger than 50, says the report.) Seventy-one percent of the billionaires who donated money to the fight the pandemic are also self-made.
Though billionaires have been criticized for not giving generously enough (“The amounts involved are tiny relative to the fortunes behind them,” Robert Reich wrote in Newsweek in April), others point out that billionaires should not be asked to do the work of the federal government.
“It [would] be awesome if Silicon Valley billionaires could do a $6 trillion bailout. They cannot,” Silicon Valley insider Sam Altman told CNBC Make It in April. “This is why we have powerful governments for moments like this.”
An ideal way for billionaires to help, according to Altman, is for them to pay more taxes so that the government could fund more research and development.