Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Billion-Dollar Philanthropists

Forbes has put together a list of living philanthropists who have given away at least $1 billion (yes that's BILLION) during their lifetimes (and are still going).  Leading the group, no surprise, is Bill Gates, who according to Forbes has cut checks worth $28 billion.  But the story also notes some interesting trends: the biggest philanthropists are almost all entrepreneurs who accumulated their wealth during their own lives; inherited wealth is conspicuously absent from the list.  Also, the vast majority of the individuals (and only individuals qualify - corporate donors were not included) come from the U.S., even though only 45% of the world's billionaires live here.  One observer quoted in the story speculates that this the result of a long history of big philanthropy in the U.S. (e.g., Carnegie, Rockefeller) absent from Europe, Asia and Latin America.  Wonder if our tax structure and incentives for giving also have some effect . . . 



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