America’s 50 richest families saw their wealth increase 10 times faster than the average US family during the pandemic

The walton family
The Walton family is America’s richest family. Rick T. Wilking/Getty Images

Dynastic wealth is growing – and it’s growing faster than the average American family’s wealth. Ten times faster, to be exact.

That’s according to a new report from the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies titled “Silver Spoon Oligarchs,” which examined the growing concentration of wealth in the US. It found that America’s 50 richest billionaire families were worth $1.2 trillion collectively as of 2020. Meanwhile, the estimated 65 million families that comprise the bottom half of all US households share a combined total wealth of $2.5 trillion.

The report looked at the top 50 dynastically wealthy families from Forbes’ inaugural ranking of America’s wealthiest clans, published in December 2020, as well as data from the Federal Reserve‘s Survey of Consumer Finance.

The 27 families that appear on both the Forbes billion dollar dynasties list and Forbes 400 list in 1983 have seen their collective wealth grow by 1,007%, from $80.2 billion to $903.2 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to the report. That’s a sharp contrast from the wealth growth among the typical US family from 1989 to 2019 (the most recent year available) , at just 93% in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Wealth is even more concentrated at the tippy top. The five wealthiest dynastic families – the Waltons, Kochs, Mars, Cargill-MacMillans, and Lauders – saw their wealth grow by 2,484% since 1983.

And many of these families saw their wealth increase exponentially during the pandemic, while the bottom half continued to struggle. It’s evidence of America’s K-shaped recovery, in which higher-income Americans have seen jobs return and their incomes grow while lower-income Americans have lost their jobs, struggled to pay bills, and fell into poverty.

US inequality was already getting worse pre-pandemic. In 2018, it reached the highest level it’s ever been since the US Census began tracking it 50 years ago. Some have cited dynastic wealth as a contributing factor, such as billionaire Warren Buffett, who called it “the enemy of meritocracy” back in 2007.

Josh Hoxie, director of the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies, previously told Insider that, “A lot of folks don’t like to acknowledge the big leg up they get in things like buying a house or avoiding significant student debt as a result of generational wealth.”

“That leads to big problems when other people who don’t have generational wealth look around and wonder why they’re so far behind,” he continued. “The reality is that the top indicator for economic prosperity is not hard work or intelligence, it’s the family you’re born into.”