March 1, 2021

Billionaires Saw Wealth Increase by $1.3 Trillion in Pandemic

NCEO founder and senior staff member

Based on data from Forbes calculated 11 months after the onset of the pandemic, the country’s 679 billionaires saw their wealth increase by $1.3 trillion since the official start of the pandemic in March 2020. That number is almost as much as the total asset value of the 14 million participant accounts in ESOPs, and one-fourth as much as the total assets in 401(k) plans. Looked at another way, if the increase on value had been evenly divided among the 164 million people in the workforce, it would come to almost $8,000 per worker. The combined wealth of the billionaires is now $4.3 trillion.

The data make a compelling case for the importance of employee ownership. The share of national wealth generated by labor has dropped from 65% in the 1940s to 55% today. Louis Kelso, the creator of ESOPs, predicted this is exactly what would happen more than 60 years ago. His solution—to find ways to make more people owners and share in capital growth—has proven its worth. But as these data show, we have a long way to go. Now is a great time for people who want to see this idea grow to become more engaged—to write op-eds for your local paper, invite reporters to come cover your employee ownership story, to share the idea of employee ownership on social media, to contact state legislators about creating policies to encourage employee ownership, and talk to your national representatives about how they can support the idea. For ideas, contact me at crosen@nceo.org.