From Jeff Bezos to Elon Musk, billionaire business magnates often donate a part of their wealth to charitable causes.
It's an annual tradition, which comes with three-fold benefits: you help the needy, then you get good PR, and finally, the charity helps with saving wealth tax.
Now, let's see how much of their fortune American billionaires actually gave away in 2018.
First, let's get some basics straight
To have an idea of the amount of money donated by top billionaires in 2018, UC Berkeley economist Gabriel Zucman compiled data published by Forbes.
Specifically, he looked at two Forbes' indexes, one the venerable billionaire rankings and the other mentioning the names of top 50 givers who gave away the most money to charitable causes, and created a table comparing the two.
Bill Gates, Warren Buffett gave much more money than Bezos
Zucman's table, which matches the wealth accumulated by billionaires till 2018 against the amount of money given away by them that year, shows Jeff Bezos gave away $131 million, which is just 0.1% of his $160,000 million wealth.
Now, that's fairly less than both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett who gave away $2,500 million and $3,400 million, respectively, or about 3-4% of their wealth.
Michael Bloomberg donated $767 million
Meanwhile, Michael Bloomberg also donated more than Bezos by giving away 1.5% of his $51,800 million wealth, which approximately goes around $767 million.
Other billionaires gave away less than 1%
Apart from Buffett, Gates, and Bloomberg, no other billionaire gave away more than one percent of their total net worth in 2018.
Mark Zuckerberg, for instance, donated 0.7% of his $61,000 million wealth, while Google co-founder Sergey Brin didn't even give 0.1% by donating a meager $25 million.
Evidently, this indicates that billionaires give a rather small portion of their wealth to charity.
Here's the complete table
US billionaires philanthropic giving:
- Gates, Buffett: annual giving ~3%–4% of their wealth
- Other top 20 billionaires: ~0.3% of their wealth. Like a tiny, tiny wealth tax
While Zucman's table shows that billionaires are barely donating from their wealth, it is worth noting that it doesn't reveal the complete picture.
Basically, the thing is, it calculates the annual donation percentage on wealth accumulated over life. A far more accurate estimate would have been calculating it over the wealth increased in 2018 - like annual income.