Nearly 40% of America’s Wealthiest Billionaires Give Relatively Nothing to Charity

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While many Americans struggled because of the pandemic, the cumulative wealth of The Forbes 400 richest Americans on the 2021 list grew 40% to an unprecedented $4.5 trillion. What didn’t grow alongside their dollars, however, is their generosity. Forbes reported that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk — who account for the top two spots on Forbes’ list, with net worth of $201 billion and $190.5 billion, respectively — each gave away less than 1% of their wealth.

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To see just how philanthropic each of America’s 400 richest people are, Forbes assigned a philanthropy score from 1 to 5, with 5 representing the most generous givers, it explained.

Unfortunately, Forbes stated that the scores are lower than ever. The number of those who scored the highest (5 – indicating they’d donated 20% or more of their fortune in out-the-door giving) dropped to eight this year from just ten last year. The majority of the list either received a score of 1, meaning they have given away less than 1% of their net worth, or N/A. The number of people receiving a 1 rose from 127 to 156, while the number of recipients of every score from 2 to 5 declined compared to a year ago.

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At the top of the list, those who gave away 20% or more of wealth, are Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett, billionaire investor George Soros, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, former hedge fund tycoon Julian Robertson Jr., co-founder of Continental Cablevision Amos Hostetter Jr., founder of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies Lynn Schusterman, founder of Arnold Ventures John Arnold and founder of First Premier Bank T. Denny Sanford.

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It’s not surprising to find the Oracle of Omaha on the list, as in 2006, he pledged to distribute all of his Berkshire Hathaway shares — more than 99% of his net worth — to philanthropy. In June, Buffett said in a statement that “with today’s $4.1 billion distribution, I’m halfway there.”

Those with a score of 4 — who gave away 10% to 19.99% of their wealth — include MacKenzie Scott, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and nine others.

eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, hedge fund manager Jim Simons and 42 others had a score of 3, having given away 5% to 9.99% of their wealth.

The score of 2 – people who gave 1% to 4.99% of their wealth–was given to 116 people on the list, including: Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and Nike co-founder Phil Knight.

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Finally, Musk and Bezos got a score of 1, and were joined on the penny pincher list by 154 others.

Last updated: October 11, 2021

About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a former full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.

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