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Ultra wealthy donated $153B to charity in 2018, report says

Megan Henney

The richest individuals in the world gave a staggering $153 billion toward charity in 2018, according to a new report published by Wealth-X.

North America led the way in charitable giving last year, with the extremely wealthy giving about $75 billion -- accounting for roughly half of the total amount -- a testament to the “long-standing tradition of public giving in the U.S.,” the report said. Comparatively, Europe’s ultra-wealthy account for just under one-third of total donations by the rich.

Despite having a larger population of wealthy individuals than Europe, Asia accounted for just 12 percent of total contributions in 2018. That’s partially because, the report found, the scope of nonprofits and education sectors is less developed in Asia than in other parts of the world.

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Still, North America has the most multimillionaires in the world, with 96,670 individuals who are worth more than $30 million. Asia has the second most, with 80,140, while Europe follows with 74,300. Across the world, there are a collective 275,130 ultra-wealthy individuals worth $33.5 trillion.

The biggest chunk of money, about 86.8 percent, went toward philanthropies that support education. In fact, almost nine in every 10 individuals gave at least some money to that sector -- often in the form of infrastructure, research endowments and scholarships.

As the size and net worth of wealthy individuals has grown over the past decade -- in 2009, there were just 173,960 extremely rich individuals, worth $21.5 trillion -- pressure has grown for the rich to give at least 2 percent of their fortune (at the point of liquidity) to charity. Other popular causes included social services, health care and medical research and arts and culture.

Both progressive Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have called for a substantial tax on the wealthy. Warren has proposed a levy of 2 percent on those worth more than $50 million and a 6 percent on $1 billion, while Sanders introduced a plan to impose a tax ranging from 1 percent on married couples worth $32 million to 8 percent on those worth $10 billion.

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