New Data: Waltons Richer, America Poorer

New Data: Waltons Richer, America Poorer

Walton Family now richer than nearly 50 million American families combined

According to analysis released today by economists at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and UC Berkeley, in 2010, six members of the Walton family had the same wealth as the bottom 42% of American families combined. Josh Bivens from EPI writes,

And in 2010, as the Waltons’ wealth has risen and most other Americans’ wealth declined, it is now the case that the Walton family wealth is as large as the bottom 48.8 million families in the wealth distribution (constituting 41.5 percent of all American families) combined.

These days, the Walton family is worth about $100 billion, and in 2010 they were worth $89.5 billion, up dramatically since 2007. That combined with a recession that was long and difficult for most American families means that the gap between the Waltons’ wealth and the wealth of so many American families widened substantially between 2007 and 2010.

6 Walmart heirs richer than 42% of Americans combinedOver at EPI, Bivens goes on to point out that the wealth of the median American family—the family that’s wealthier than half of American families and less wealthy than half—was $77,300 in 2010. He shows that it would take 1.16 million median families to equal the wealth of the Walton family.

Silvia Allegretto from UC Berkeley brings up another interesting wrinkle in story of the Waltons’ rising wealth amid a major recession: even the cumulative wealth of the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans dropped between 2007 and 2010. The Walton family really stands apart from so many American families with their gains over that time period.

As Allegretto points out, when times are tough for most Americans, Walmart thrives. Walmart’s business model is built on offering low prices by cutting costs, right down to employee wages and benefits. The Waltons—who own half of Walmart—derive much of their wealth from the company. They have the power to turn 1.4 million jobs at Walmart into good jobs at a time when the middle class has obviously taken some hard hits. Instead, the Waltons hold on to the same wealth as the bottom 42% of American families combined, while offering Walmart associates an average wage of $8.81 an hour and destroying many of the manufacturing jobs that helped build the middle class in the United States. This might be good for the Waltons’ bottom line, but it’s not good for everyone else.

What do you think?