According to a new study, the wealth
's 50 richest family dynasties
has risen at a rate ten times that of typical U.S. families over the last four decades.
The wealth of the richest 27 families on the Forbes billion-dollar dynasties list and Forbes 400 list grew by 1,007% from 1983 to last year, from $80.2 billion to $903.2 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to a report from the Institute for Policy Studies
, a progressive think tank. Wealth grew by less than one-tenth of that, or 93%, for the average American family.
According to the study, “Silver Spoon Oligarchs: How America’s 50 Largest Inherited-Wealth Dynasties Accelerate Inequality
,” the five
wealthiest family dynasties — the Waltons, Kochs, Marses, Cargill-MacMillans, and Lauders — saw their wealth soar 2,484% since 1983.
At the end of last year, the 50 wealthiest families in the United States
were worth a total of $1.2 trillion, while the 65 million families in the bottom economic half of all households shared a total of $2.5 trillion.
According to the study, wealth among America's wealthiest family dynasties ends up vastly rewarding family members who had nothing to do with earning the fortune, defying the defense that riches are an incentive for hard work
; instead, the riches are plowed into family wealth protections, providing fewer benefits to society.
“Great fortunes dissipate over a few generations in healthy, equitable democratic
societies as initial wealth holders have children
and grandchildren, pay their fair share of taxes
, and make charitable contributions,” according to the report.
“However, our country’s wealth is accumulating in fewer hands, including among people
who may be up to seven generations removed from the original source of their family’s wealth; and at some point, some of these wealth holders — or their descendants — shift resources to consolidate their wealth, fend off competition, and create monopolies.”
Even the coronavirus pandemic
has benefited some of the wealthiest families: while ordinary families struggled with job losses, plummeting income, and rising health-care costs, the top 10 families on the Forbes dynasty list saw a 25% increase in net worth.
According to a report published last year by the Institute for Policy Studies, the total net worth of the country's more than 600 billionaires
increased by 15%, or $434 billion, in the first two months of the pandemic, and the wealth gap between the rich and everyone else was the widest since the census began tracking it a half-century ago.
Check out the latest report from the Institute for Policy Studies here.