Forbes Reveals 400 Richest People In America, Bill Gates Still Top

Forbes has revealed the 400 richest people in America with Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Larry Ellison taking the top three spots.

Gates and Buffett retain first and second position in the list despite having donated billions of dollars to charitable causes. Indeed, since last year’s list, Buffett alone has given away $1.5 billion. Gates and Buffett have given a total of $28 billion and $17.5 billion to charity respectively.

Forbes‘ richest people list of 2012 totals the combined net worth of the 400 wealthiest Americans at $1.7 trillion; that’s up from $1.5 trillion in 2011. The average fortune of a Forbes 400 member now sits at a heady $4.2 billion (up from $3.8 billion in 2011), while seventy per cent of the Forbes 400 generated their fortunes from scratch. Another observation from the magazine: The divide between the very rich and the so-called “merely rich” is stretching. Only two names in the top 20 are poorer in 2012 than in 2011, and the top 20 as a whole is worth $73 billion more than a year ago.

Forbes began ranking America’s richest people 30 years ago. You’d have made the 1982 edition of the list with a fortune of $75 million, which I think we can all agree is a laughable pitance. To make 2012’s list, you would need a $1.1 billion fortune; to put that in perspective, the 1982 rankings contained only 13 billionaires.

Not everybody in the list will be popping champagne corks however. The biggest loser on the 2012 list was Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, whose fortune fell by an alarming $8.1 billion. That said, he remains $2.5 billion richer than he was two years ago, and at least he’s still on the list; fellow web and social media giants such as Groupon’s Eric Lefkofsky, Zynga’s Mark Pincus, and Facebook’s venture capitalist Jim Breyer all dropped off.