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Bay Area has third largest billionaire population in the world

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Despite IPO woes, mega-wealth still rolling in SF

Mansion in San Francisco’s Billionaire’s Row enclave.
Photo by Shutterstock

The tech set is taking a beating in the Bay Area in 2019, with the latest big name initial public offerings—those of ubiquitous ride-hailing outfits Lyft and Uber—landing with a thud.

But according to Wealth-X, a New York-based data analyst service that specializes in the super wealthy, San Francisco continues to accumulate and concentrate vast sums of money, with the company’s latest annual billionaire census (released last week) once again listing SF as the city with the third highest billionaire population worldwide.

According to the report, of the 705 billionaires in the U.S. (and 2,604 worldwide), 75 live in San Francisco, up from 74 last year.

New York City has the highest worldwide population with 105, followed by Hong Kong with 87; note that while the top three are identical compared to 2018’s census, Hong Kong dipped in the totals, dropping from 93 in 2018.

The Wealth-X report also claims that “San Francisco has significantly more billionaires per inhabitant than any other top city—with one billionaire for approximately every 11,600 residents.”

However, this doesn’t appear to be true: While the analysis seems to work off of an estimated 2018 population of 870,000 for San Francisco—which is too low, but in the right balk park—the 2018 Wealth-X census uses the term “San Francisco” to refer to the Bay Area as a whole rather than just the city proper, which throws the density estimates out the window.

Note that while ultra-wealth was on the rise in the Bay Area, the report claims that the number of billionaires and their share of global wealth declined worldwide in 2018.

In 2017, the U.S. Census estimated that San Francisco—the city and county itself, not the entire Bay Area region—had a median household income of $96,265 per year.

Meanwhile, the Brookings Institute reports that the Bay Area had the third-largest income gap in the county in 2016, with the region’s wealthiest households making 11 times that of those on the lowest rung of the ladder.

Supervisor Gordon Mar has proposed an increase in the city’s corporate tax on “stock-based compensation,” which is presently a mere 0.38 percent.

Mar’s proposal would hike the tax to 1.5 percent, assuming SF voters back it in 2020. Though the proposal is colloquially called an “IPO tax,” it wouldn’t apply only to stock wealth from initial public offerings.

Mar needs six votes on the SF Board of Supervisors (including himself) in order to qualify the corporate tax for the ballot. At last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Mar claims to have sewn up at least seven backers.