When I was very young, my mother frequently told me that “the rich get richer.” That was the 1950’s and 1960’s when other groups were also improving their economic situation. However, now, according to the Pew Research Center, an even greater share of the nation’s aggregate income is going to upper-income households, but the share going to middle-and lower-income households is decreasing. I think this growing disparity is widely acknowledged and people are well aware of the rise of the super-rich, as well as the economic plight of middle- and working-class people.
I was having a cup of coffee with a very wealthy friend recently, and he was telling me how much money he has made on his investments in the past year. He is not alone among the wealthy. The stock market continues to rise to historic highs. And people who have invested in real estate have also seen a dramatic increase in their portfolios.
But in stark contrast, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a disastrous impact on people living in poverty. According to World Bank estimates, global extreme poverty rose in 2020 fueled by the pandemic. This reverses a 20-year decline in extreme poverty. The World Bank predicts that countries in Sub-Saharan will see further increases in extreme poverty in 2021. Adding significantly to the problem is the uneven distribution of Covid-19 vaccines worldwide. While 46.4% of the world population has now received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, only 2.5% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose (Our World in Data). So if my mother were still alive, I would update her and say not only are the rich getting richer — despite a global pandemic — but the poor are getting poorer, and the risks of poverty are arguably greater than ever.
Why discuss this in the newsletter now? We are headed to Giving Season in the United States, and I think it is imperative for those of us who have gained wealth during the pandemic through the growth of the stock and real estate markets to think seriously about sharing their good fortune with people living in extreme poverty. Now would be an excellent time to take the pledge, even if it’s just the minimum amount suggested. I know for those of you who have large incomes, even the minimum suggested donation might seem like a lot of money. But is keeping that money for yourself and your family more important than saving lives, restoring children’s sight, and empowering women to help themselves and their families escape extreme poverty? Also, remember the pledge amounts only relate to your income, not your wealth.