Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (2024)

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15. The Cathy family is worth $11 billion thanks to its fried-chicken fortune. The family's wealth comes from fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, founded in 1967 by Samuel Truett Cathy. 14. The Stryker family built its $11.1 billion fortune with Stryker Corp., a medical-equipment company founded by Homer Stryker. His grandchildren — siblings Pat, Jon, and Ronda — each inherited a stake in the company, which generated $12 billion in sales in 2017. Ronda is the only sibling to serve on the board. All three are philanthropists and have donated at least $855 million collectively to various causes and foundations. 13. The Goldman family owns a good chunk of New York City real estate with Solil Management, which has built them a fortune of $13.2 billion. Sol Goldman began the real-estate firm in the 1950s by buying foreclosed properties at bargain prices. Today, it has a 17% stake in the World Trade Center developments. His daughter Jane Goldman runs the company, which has assets worth an estimated $12 billion. She owns 25% of the company with her siblings. 12. The Bass family has a net worth of $13.3 billion thanks to an oil fortune. In 1959, the oil tycoon Sid Richardson left his nephews Robert, Sid, Lee, and Edward $2.8 million each. They then diversified the money. The four brothers received $5.6 billion in stock after selling their oil company to ExxonMobil in 2017. They could reap payouts worth up to $1 billion. 11. The Ziffs have a fortune worth $14.4 billion that began with the magazine publisher Ziff Davis Inc., which published PC Magazine. William Ziff Jr. sold the magazine publisher for $1.4 billion in 1994. His sons, Daniel, Robert, and Dirk, grow their inheritance through Ziff Brothers Investments. They reportedly own several homes in Aspen, Colorado, have put their money toward philanthropic efforts, and invest their billions with managers who used to work at their hedge funds. 10. The S.C. Johnson family has a fortune of $18.2 billion. S.C. Johnson, which produces cleaning products such as Pledge, Glade, and Windex, was founded by its namesake in 1882 and eventually taken over by his son, Herbert Fisk Johnson. Herbert Fisk Johnson died in 1928 without a will, and the family reportedly feuded over the inheritance until it was eventually divided between his two children, Herbert Fisk Johnson Jr. and Henrietta Johnson Louis. 9. Like the S.C. Johnson family, the Lauder family has a fortune built on retail. They're worth $22.4 billion. In 1947, Estée Lauder received her first major order, which was for $800 of skincare products from Saks Fifth Avenue. Today, the company has 30 brands of makeup, including MAC and Clinique, and reported $13.8 billion in net sales in 2018. The Lauders are active philanthropists — Leonard Lauder donated $1 billion worth of art to the Met — and own a lot of real estate. 8. The Duncan family has a net worth of $24.8 billion. Dan L. Duncan founded Enterprise Products Partners, a natural-gas and crude-oil company, in 1968 with just $10,000. After he died in 2010, the company remained under family control, and his four children inherited a $10 billion estate. The family fortune has since more than doubled. 7. The Pritzker family has a fortune of $26.6 billion with roots in hospitality. A.N. Pritzker and his sons, Jay, Donald, and Robert, created the family's wealth by founding the Hyatt Hotel chain and investing in holdings, such as Marmon Group. Eleven members of the family are billionaires — eight are on the Forbes 400 list. They reportedly spent much of the 2000s arguing over trusts, ultimately dividing up the fortune. 6. The Cox family has a fortune worth $37.2 billion thanks to Cox Enterprises. The company spans a number of industries — cable and broadband (Cox Communications), newspapers and radio stations (Cox Media Group), and automotive — and generates about $20 billion in revenue. 5. The Edward C. Johnson family is worth $38.7 billion. Edward C. Johnson founded the world's second-largest mutual-fund company, Fidelity, in 1946. It has been run by three Johnson generations since. The family owns 49% of the company, which is helmed by Edward C. Johnson's granddaughter, Abigail Johnson. 4. The Cargill-MacMillan family's wealth of $38.8 billion dates back to 1865, when agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. was founded. Today, 23 members of the Cargill-MacMillan family own 88% of the company, which generates $108 billion in annual revenue. Of this clan, 14 are billionaires — nine are on the Forbes 400. 3. The Mars family has a fortune of $72 billion from its candy empire, Mars Inc., which invented M&Ms, Milky Ways, and Mars Bars. They run the Mars Foundation, which donates to educational, environmental, cultural, and health-related causes. Jacqueline Mars' son, Stephen Badger, is the chairman of Mars Inc., which brings in more than $35 billion in annual revenue. 2. Koch Industries has helped the Koch family build a fortune of $107 billion. Brothers Charles and the late David Koch expanded their father's oil-refinery firm into the conglomerate, which generates roughly $100 billion in revenue annually. David (who died in August) pledged to contribute more than $1.2 billion to cancer research, hospitals, education, and cultural institutions through the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation. Both brothers reportedly secretly funded some of the biggest summer movies of 2017, including "Wonder Woman." 1. The Walton family is the biggest family-wealth dynasty in the US, worth $169.7 billion. Their source of wealth comes from Walmart, which Sam and Bud Walton founded in 1962 before founding Sam's Club in 1983. Today, Walmart reports $500 billion in sales, making it the largest retailer by revenue in the world. The Walton family fortune is dispersed among seven family members, including cofounder Sam Walton's three children, Rob, Jim, and Alice. Alice Walton is the richest woman in the world, with a $44.9 billion fortune. References

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Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (1)

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (2)

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Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (3)

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Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (4)

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Income inequality in America is getting worse. In 2018, it reached the highest level it's ever been since the US Census began tracking it 50 years ago, reported Taylor Telford for The Washington Post, citing the US Census 2018 American Community Survey released this week.

Dynastic wealth, which has been bemoaned by Warren Buffett, may be one of the reasons why.

In October 2018, the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies' "Billionaire Bonanza" report examined the growing concentration of wealth in the US by looking at 15 dynastically wealthy families from the latest Forbes 400 list (also published in October 2018) and data from the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finance (which is from 2016 and has been adjusted for inflation to 2018 dollars).

"Each of these family's wealth comes from companies started by an earlier generation, either a parent or more distant ancestor," the report said. "Each of them also represents a wealth dynasty passing generation to generation free from interruption."

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It found that the median American family owns just more than $80,000 in household wealth, while the 15 family dynastiesown a combined $618 billion.

Since 1982, the combined wealth of the top three families — the Waltons, the Kochs, and the Marses — has increased by 5,868%, totaling $348.7 billion.

Here's a closer look at how they and the rest of the wealthy dynastic families from the Forbes 400 built their wealth, ranked from lowest net worth to highest net worth. The estimated total wealth for each family is a sum of each individual family member's wealth listed on the Forbes 400 and does not include the wealth of any family members not on the Forbes 400.

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Note that the Forbes 400 doesn't encompass all of America's wealthy dynastic families — some individual family members have less than the $2.1 billion in personal wealth needed to make the list.

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15. The Cathy family is worth $11 billion thanks to its fried-chicken fortune.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (5)

Source: The Billionaire Bonanza Report

The family's wealth comes from fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, founded in 1967 by Samuel Truett Cathy.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (6)

Source: Forbes

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14. The Stryker family built its $11.1 billion fortune with Stryker Corp., a medical-equipment company founded by Homer Stryker.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (7)

Source: The Billionaire Bonanza Report

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His grandchildren — siblings Pat, Jon, and Ronda — each inherited a stake in the company, which generated $12 billion in sales in 2017. Ronda is the only sibling to serve on the board.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (8)

Source: Forbes

All three are philanthropists and have donated at least $855 million collectively to various causes and foundations.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (9)

Source: Forbes, Forbes, Forbes

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Sol Goldman began the real-estate firm in the 1950s by buying foreclosed properties at bargain prices. Today, it has a 17% stake in the World Trade Center developments.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (11)

Source: Business Insider

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His daughter Jane Goldman runs the company, which has assets worth an estimated $12 billion. She owns 25% of the company with her siblings.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (12)

Katie Warren/Business Insider

Source: Business Insider

12. The Bass family has a net worth of $13.3 billion thanks to an oil fortune.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (13)

Source: The Billionaire Bonanza Report

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In 1959, the oil tycoon Sid Richardson left his nephews Robert, Sid, Lee, and Edward $2.8 million each. They then diversified the money.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (14)

Source: Forbes

The four brothers received $5.6 billion in stock after selling their oil company to ExxonMobil in 2017. They could reap payouts worth up to $1 billion.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (15)

Eric Glenn/Shutterstock

Source: Forbes

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11. The Ziffs have a fortune worth $14.4 billion that began with the magazine publisher Ziff Davis Inc., which published PC Magazine.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (16)

Source: The Billionaire Bonanza Report

William Ziff Jr. sold the magazine publisher for $1.4 billion in 1994. His sons, Daniel, Robert, and Dirk, grow their inheritance through Ziff Brothers Investments.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (17)

Source: Business Insider

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They reportedly own several homes in Aspen, Colorado, have put their money toward philanthropic efforts, and invest their billions with managers who used to work at their hedge funds.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (18)

Source: Business Insider

10. The S.C. Johnson family has a fortune of $18.2 billion.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (19)

Source: The Billionaire Bonanza Report

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S.C. Johnson, which produces cleaning products such as Pledge, Glade, and Windex, was founded by its namesake in 1882 and eventually taken over by his son, Herbert Fisk Johnson.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (20)

Kelly Tippett/Shutterstock

Source: Business Insider

Herbert Fisk Johnson died in 1928 without a will, and the family reportedly feuded over the inheritance until it was eventually divided between his two children, Herbert Fisk Johnson Jr. and Henrietta Johnson Louis.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (21)

Source: Business Insider

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9. Like the S.C. Johnson family, the Lauder family has a fortune built on retail. They're worth $22.4 billion.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (22)

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Source: The Billionaire Bonanza Report

In 1947, Estée Lauder received her first major order, which was for $800 of skincare products from Saks Fifth Avenue.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (23)

Ray Fisher/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

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Today, the company has 30 brands of makeup, including MAC and Clinique, and reported $13.8 billion in net sales in 2018.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (24)

Francis Dean/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider, The Estee Lauder Companies

The Lauders are active philanthropists — Leonard Lauder donated $1 billion worth of art to the Met — and own a lot of real estate.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (25)

Source: Business Insider

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8. The Duncan family has a net worth of $24.8 billion.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (26)

Source: The Billionaire Bonanza Report

Dan L. Duncan founded Enterprise Products Partners, a natural-gas and crude-oil company, in 1968 with just $10,000.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (27)

Source: Business Insider

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After he died in 2010, the company remained under family control, and his four children inherited a $10 billion estate. The family fortune has since more than doubled.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (28)

Source: Business Insider

7. The Pritzker family has a fortune of $26.6 billion with roots in hospitality.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (29)

Source: The Billionaire Bonanza Report

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A.N. Pritzker and his sons, Jay, Donald, and Robert, created the family's wealth by founding the Hyatt Hotel chain and investing in holdings, such as Marmon Group.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (30)

KAREN BLEIER/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

Eleven members of the family are billionaires — eight are on the Forbes 400 list.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (31)

Source: Business Insider,The Billionaire Bonanza Report

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They reportedly spent much of the 2000s arguing over trusts, ultimately dividing up the fortune.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (32)

Source: Business Insider

6. The Cox family has a fortune worth $37.2 billion thanks to Cox Enterprises.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (33)

Source: The Billionaire Bonanza Report

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The company spans a number of industries — cable and broadband (Cox Communications), newspapers and radio stations (Cox Media Group), and automotive — and generates about $20 billion in revenue.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (34)

Wikimedia Commons

Source: Business Insider

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5. The Edward C. Johnson family is worth $38.7 billion.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (35)

Source: The Billionaire Bonanza Report

Edward C. Johnson founded the world's second-largest mutual-fund company, Fidelity, in 1946. It has been run by three Johnson generations since.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (36)

James Leynse/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

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The family owns 49% of the company, which is helmed by Edward C. Johnson's granddaughter, Abigail Johnson.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (37)

Source: Business Insider

4. The Cargill-MacMillan family's wealth of $38.8 billion dates back to 1865, when agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. was founded.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (38)

Source: The Billionaire Bonanza Report, Business Insider

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Today, 23 members of the Cargill-MacMillan family own 88% of the company, which generates $108 billion in annual revenue.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (39)

Sylvain Gaboury/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

Of this clan, 14 are billionaires — nine are on the Forbes 400.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (40)

Source: The Billionaire Bonanza Report, Business Insider

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3. The Mars family has a fortune of $72 billion from its candy empire, Mars Inc., which invented M&Ms, Milky Ways, and Mars Bars.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (41)

Source: The Billionaire Bonanza Report

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They run the Mars Foundation, which donates to educational, environmental, cultural, and health-related causes.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (42)

Source: Business Insider

Jacqueline Mars' son, Stephen Badger, is the chairman of Mars Inc., which brings in more than $35 billion in annual revenue.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (43)

Source: Business Insider

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2. Koch Industries has helped the Koch family build a fortune of $107 billion.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (44)

Source: The Billionaire Bonanza Report

Brothers Charles and the late David Koch expanded their father's oil-refinery firm into the conglomerate, which generates roughly $100 billion in revenue annually.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (45)

MSNBC/Youtube

Source: Business Insider

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David (who died in August) pledged to contribute more than $1.2 billion to cancer research, hospitals, education, and cultural institutions through the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (46)

Source: Business Insider

Read more: David Koch is dead. His and his brother Charles' combined net worth is over $100 billion, even after years of family feuds and massive lawsuits. Here's how they made and spent their wealth.

Both brothers reportedly secretly funded some of the biggest summer movies of 2017, including "Wonder Woman."

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (47)

Source: Business Insider

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1. The Walton family is the biggest family-wealth dynasty in the US, worth $169.7 billion.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (48)

Source: The Billionaire Bonanza Report

Their source of wealth comes from Walmart, which Sam and Bud Walton founded in 1962 before founding Sam's Club in 1983.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (49)

Bob Chamberlin/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

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Today, Walmart reports $500 billion in sales, making it the largest retailer by revenue in the world.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (50)

Jeff Greenberg / Contributor / Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

The Walton family fortune is dispersed among seven family members, including cofounder Sam Walton's three children, Rob, Jim, and Alice.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (51)

Source: Business Insider

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Alice Walton is the richest woman in the world, with a $44.9 billion fortune.

Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (52)

Source: Business Insider, The Billionaire Bonanza Report

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Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family 'dynasties,' who have a combined net worth of $618 billion. (2024)

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