The richest American 37 years ago wouldn't even make it onto the Forbes billionaires list today

Karwai Tang/Getty ImagesJeff Bezos is worth $US114 billion. In 1982, the richest American was only worth $US2 billion.

The rich are only getting richer – the gap between rich and poor in the US has never been wider – and one tidbit from Forbes’ most recent billionaires list makes that abundantly clear.

Forbes just released its 2019 edition of the Forbes 400 list, which ranks the richest billionaires in America. The richest American is Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who’s worth a staggering $US114 billion. Bill Gates joins Bezos in the $US100-billionaire club, with a net worth of $US106 billion.

But the Forbes list looked very different just 37 years ago.

“When Forbes published our first list of the 400 richest Americans back in 1982, the poorest person to make the rarefied club was worth $US91 million, while the richest, Daniel Keith Ludwig, topped out at $US2 billion,” Catherine Perloff wrote for Forbes. “That wouldn’t even get Ludwig a spot at the bottom of the list today.”

On this year’s Forbes 400, the 13 people tied for last place are each worth $US2.1 billion.

Even considering inflation, Ludwig’s 1982 net worth of $US2 billion would only be worth about $US3.03 billion today, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics’ inflation calculator.

The five richest people in the US today are worth a combined $US435.4 billion, which would have been unthinkable in 1982.


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The 5 richest men in the US have a staggering combined wealth of $US435.4 billion. That’s more than 2% of America’s GDP.

Rich peopleLeon Neal/Getty ImagesAs America’s rich get richer, the middle class is shrinking and income inequality is at a record high.

The US is home to an estimated 705 billionaires, more than any other country in the world, Business Insider’s Hillary Hoffower previously reported.

But as the rich get increasingly richer in America, the middle class isn’t faring so well. Income inequality is at a record high, the middle class is shrinking, and even some households earning six figures feel like they’re middle class.

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