2017 was even worse for wealth inequality

The richest people alive became $1 trillion wealthier in 2017, more than four times the increase from 2016

By Matthew Rozsa

Published December 29, 2017 1:34PM (EST)


2017 was a bad year for people who care about the problem of widening global income inequality.

The world's wealthiest people earned a collective $1 trillion during 2017, according to Bloomberg. This constituted a rise of 23 percent since the start of the year and is an increase of more than four times the amount that the richest people in the world earned in 2016. In that year, the world's richest individuals made "only" $237 billion collectively.

The big winner in 2017 was Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com. By earning $34.2 billion in 2017, Bezos managed to replace Microsoft founder Bill Gates as the wealthiest man in the world. Bezos even managed to briefly reach $100 billion in his total net work back in November, although he subsequently fell to his current net worth of $99.6 billion. Gates, by contrast, is at $91.3 billion. Rounding out the top five were investor and business magnate Warren Buffett, business tycoon Amancio Ortega and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Of those five, only Ortega isn't an American.

Aside from America, two of the nations that really stood out on the list were China and Russia. The 38 Chinese billionaires on the Bloomberg list managed to add more to their collective wealth than the billionaires from all of the countries, gaining $177 billion in 2017. Meanwhile, despite Russia's ongoing economic hardships, its 27 wealthiest individuals earned an additional $29 billion on top of the $275 billion they already had, the first time their collective net worth reached pre-sanctions levels.

The Bloomberg study only confirms a trend that another report from earlier this year managed to identify. A global wealth report by Credit Suisse found that the richest people in the world have seen their control of global wealth reach 50.1 percent in 2017, according to The Guardian. This continued a trend in which the wealthiest 1 percent have seen their total worth steadily increase since the 2008 economic crisis, with the 1 percenters now owning half of the world's total wealth.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Bill Gates Billionaires George Soros Jeff Bezos