Visualizing the Richest Families in America
When we think about the richest people in America, individual names often come to mind like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates. But often, it’s the richest families in America that hold a deeper legacy, and sometimes, even deeper pockets.
The country’s 50 richest families hold a collective wealth of $1.2 trillion. This ranking goes beyond nuclear family units and self-made fortunes, and it instead measures the wealth of multi-generational or extended families.
Our visualization, which leverages the latest data from Forbes, reveals the wealthiest families in America and the enterprises that helped them earn their billions.
Editor’s note on methodology: in this ranking, Forbes leaves out self-made entrepreneurs that appear with their nuclear families on the billionaires list. For example, Jeff Bezos founded Amazon and Rupert Murdoch founded News Corp, but these successes did not come from family wealth that was passed down to them.
Say the name Rockefeller or Vanderbilt, and everyone knows who you’re talking about—but how do these household names hold up in the modern rankings?
Below are the 50 richest families in America, based on net worth:
|Rank||Family||Net Worth||Origin of Wealth|
|#2||Koch Family||$100.0B||Koch Industries|
|#3||Mars Family||$94.0B||Mars Inc.|
|#4||Cargill-MacMillan Family||$47.0B||Cargill Inc.|
|#5||Lauder Family||$40.0B||Estee Lauder|
|#6||S.C. Johnson Family||$37.0B||SC Johnson|
|#7||Edward Johnson Family||$36.0B||Fidelity|
|#8||Cox Family||$34.5B||Cox Enterprises|
|#9||Pritzker Family||$32.5B||Hyatt Hotels|
|#10||Newhouse Family||$30.0B||Condé Nast|
|#11||Duncan Family||$22.0B||Enterprise Products Partners L.P.|
|#12||Hearst Family||$21.0B||Hearst Corporation|
|#14||Marshall Family||$18.5B||Koch Industries (6% stake)|
|#17||Du Pont Family||$16.0B||DuPont|
|#18||Hunt Family||$15.5B||Hunt Oil and Petro-Hunt|
|#19||Dorrance Family||$15.0B||Campbell Soup Co.|
|#23||Goldman Family||$13.2B||Real Estate|
|#24||Rollins Family||$13.1B||Orkin Pest control|
|#25||Gallo Family||$12.4B||E&J Gallo Winery|
|#26||Reyes Family||$12.0B||Reyes Holdings|
|#27||Kohler Family||$11.7B||Kohler Co.|
|#29||Smith Family||$11.3B||Illinois Tool Works, Northern Trust|
|#31||Sackler Family||$10.8B||Purdue Pharma|
|#32||Johnson Family||$10.7B||Johnson & Johnson|
|#33||Marriott Family||$10.4B||Marriott International|
|#35||Hughes Family||$10.2B||Public Storage Inc.|
|#38||Fisher Family||$8.9B||Gap Inc.|
|#39||Jenkins Family||$8.8B||Publix Super Markets|
|#40||Chao Family||$8.6B||Westlake Chemical Corp.|
|#41||(Charles & Rupert) Johnson Family||$8.6B||Franklin Resources Inc.|
|#42||Phipps Family||$8.6B||Carnegie Steel, Bessemer Trust|
|#43||Rockefeller Family||$8.4B||Standard Oil|
|#44||E.W. Scripps Family||$8.4B||Scripps Network Interactive|
|#47||Durst Family||$8.1B||Real Estate|
|#48||Taylor Family||$7.8B||Enterprise Rent-A-Car|
|#50||Barbey Family||$7.3B||VF Corp|
The richest family in the U.S. is the Waltons, founders of Walmart. Their net worth adds to an approximate $247 billion, making them also the richest family in the world. Over the last year, they’ve grown their family fortune by $25 billion, equal to nearly $3 million per hour.
Interestingly, the Vanderbilts—the railroad tycoons that were once the richest family in the country in the late 19th century—have been ousted from the rankings entirely. Other notable American families, like Ford and Astor, have lost their place on the list as well.
On the other hand, the Rockefellers still hold their status today, ranked at number 43 with a net worth of $8.4 billion. John D. Rockefeller became America’s first billionaire back in 1916, despite the breaking up of Standard Oil for antitrust reasons.
Over the last five years, nearly every family on this list has seen wealth increase. Many of the behemoth companies on which these families built their fortunes are staples in America, like Campbell’s Soup, Cargill, Dixie Cups, Estee Lauder, and M&Ms and Snickers.
For example, the South’s beloved fast food chain, Chick-fil-A, was founded by the Cathy family and generated $12.67 billion in sales as of the latest annual data, making it the third most popular chain restaurant in the country.
Some of the newer families to make the list also owe it to the success of their enterprises:
- The Kohler family: Kohler Co. (manufacturers of kitchenware, plumbing products, furniture, etc.)
- The Taylor family: Enterprise Rent-A-Car (car rental services)
However, a few families have experienced significant losses since the last Forbes ranking. Here’s a look at some notable net worth decreases:
|Family||Company||Change in Net Worth from 2015-2020|
|Fisher||Gap Inc.||Negative growth (exact $ amount unknown)|
|Johnson (Charles and Rupert)||Mutual Funds||Negative growth (exact $ amount unknown)|
Purdue Pharma recently filed for bankruptcy. The Sackler family’s plan is to reformulate the company into a new venture whose profits would go towards the opioid crisis, for which they are largely blamed. It would also cost the family around $4.3 billion directly.
Keeping it in the Family
While some families may have experienced decreases in their wealth, for many this is just a small bump in the road.
Overall, the richest families in America are the keepers of immense wealth that has accumulated over generations. For some, their names are now cultural landmarks across the U.S. and their brands have become synonymous with life in America.
Visualized: The Power of a Sustainable Investment Dollar
Do sustainable investments make a difference? From carbon emissions to board diversity, we break down their impact across three industries.
Visualizing the Power of a Sustainable Investment Dollar
Sustainable investments are booming.
Between January and November 2020 alone, investments in sustainable ETF and mutual funds grew 96%. The UN Principles of Responsible Investment now has over 3,000 signatories representing over $100 trillion in assets. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission established a Climate Risk Unit to analyze climate risk across derivative markets, and as of March 2021, new sustainability disclosures have come into effect in Europe.
But how do we know if sustainable investments have made a difference?
To answer this question, the above infographic from MSCI examines the effect of a sustainable investment dollar by looking at real-world examples.
A Sustainable vs. Unsustainable Dollar
To start, investing legend Benjamin Graham has compared the stock market to a “voting machine.” Just as consumers vote with their purchasing decisions, investors vote with their investment dollars. Especially in the short term, as more dollars flow to sustainable companies, this builds their exposure and access to capital.
In the long term, meanwhile, the market can be compared to a weighing machine. The market recognizes companies with profitable business models that improve their intrinsic value over time. Ultimately, this allows sustainable companies to expand and continue operating.
Given the rising momentum in both green assets and climate targets, here is how investment dollars have influenced and driven change across three industries.
1. Clean Energy vs. Fossil Fuel
Over the last several years, the energy sector has been associated with many of the problems causing climate change. For this reason, many investors are seeking out greener energy alternatives. But how does moving investment dollars from an ESG laggard to an ESG leader support the environment and society?
First, here is a brief explainer of ESG laggards and leaders:
- ESG laggards: companies with the weakest environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance in their sector.
- ESG leaders: companies with the strongest environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance in their sector.
|Industry laggard: U.S. oil & gas company||Industry leader: U.S. utilities company|
|Scale of carbon-intensive business lines equal to 73% of its operation||47% lower CO2 emissions than the industry average|
|This is the equivalent of adding 26 million cars on the road annually||This is the equivalent of removing 9.9 million cars off the road annually|
|1 of 20 oil and gas companies are responsible for contributing to one third of GHG emissions since 1965||Uses 3X as many renewable sources than industry average|
|3X fewer jobs are created vs. energy efficient sector, resulting in lower productivity||This is roughly the same as saving over 9 million pounds of coal burned|
|MSCI ESG Rating: CCC||MSCI ESG Rating: AAA|
Source: MSCI ESG Research
Based on the above example, investors have the ability to finance powerful green initiatives that reduce emissions by almost half, relative to their peers.
2. Safe vs. Unsafe Working Conditions
Weak safety protocols are a key sustainability issue for the industrial sector. Here’s how two companies compare:
|Industry laggard: South African mining company||Industry leader: U.S. mining company|
|11 fatalities in 2019||Zero fatalities in 2019|
|Faced lawsuits from miners surrounding lung diseases contracted from dust exposure in gold mines|
Settlement cost: $350 million
|Board-level oversight monitors health and safety performance|
|Lags behind peers in high incident rates||Leads peers in low incident rates|
|Lags behind peers in setting incident reduction targets||Leads industry in lost time incident rate & total recordable injury rate|
|MSCI ESG Rating: CCC||MSCI ESG Rating: A|
Source: MSCI ESG Research
Despite the risks involved in the sector, investors can choose to support companies that take greater precautions to protect their workers.
3. Building Trust vs. Losing Trust
Over the last several years, the financial sector has faced increased scrutiny over fraudulent activities. Moving investment dollars from an ESG laggard to ESG leader may make a difference:
|Industry laggard: U.S. bank||Industry leader: Dutch bank|
|$3 billion settlement in creating fictitious accounts to meet aggressive sales targets||Sustainable finance portfolio valued at over $20 billion|
|Drop in top-tier bank ratings||13% annual increase in climate finance|
|Board effectiveness questioned||Includes over 60 green loans, mobilizing environmentally friendly projects|
|Resignation of board members||Over 55% of board is female|
|MSCI ESG Rating: CCC||MSCI ESG Rating: A|
Source: MSCI ESG Research
From board diversity to green loans, a sustainable investment dollar supports companies that are actively advancing society and the environment.
Sustainable Investment: The Time to Act
Recently, investor dollars and shareholder activism have been closely linked.
Between 2018 and 2020, large institutional investors filed 217 shareholder proposals on climate change alone, putting increased pressure on companies. Meanwhile, 270 proposals were filed on corporate political activity and 228 on fair labor and equal employment opportunity over the same timeframe. Across all ESG proposals, $2 trillion in assets were pushing for more equitable corporate action.
Through the power of a dollar, investors can send a clear signal to companies: the time for sustainable investing is now.
Visualizing the Snowball of Government Debt
After an unprecedented borrowing spree in response to COVID-19, what does government debt look like around the world?
Visualizing the Snowball of Government Debt in 2021
As we approach the second half of 2021, many countries around the world are beginning to relax their COVID-19 restrictions.
And while this signals a return to normalcy for much of the global economy, there’s one subject that’s likely to remain controversial: government debt.
To see how each country is faring in the aftermath of an unprecedented global borrowing spree, this graphic from HowMuch.net visualizes debt-to-GDP ratios using April 2021 data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Ranking the Top 10 in Government Debt
Government debt is often analyzed through the debt-to-GDP metric because it contextualizes an otherwise massive number.
Take for example the U.S. national debt, which currently sits at over $27 trillion. In isolation this figure sounds daunting, but when expressed as a % of U.S. GDP, it works out to a more relatable 133%. This format also allows us to make a better comparison between countries, especially when their economies differ in size.
With that being said, here are the top 10 countries in terms of debt-to-GDP. For further context, we’ve included their 2019 and 2020 values as well.
|Rank (2021)||Country||Debt-to-GDP (2019)||Debt-to-GDP (2020)||Debt-to-GDP (April 2021)|
|#9||🇨🇻 Cape Verde||125%||139%||138%|
Japan tops the list with a ratio of 257%, though this isn’t really a surprise—the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio first surpassed 100% in the 1990s, and in 2010, it became the first advanced economy to reach 200%.
Such significant debt burdens are the result of non-traditional monetary policies, many of which were first implemented by Japan, then adopted by others. In the late 1990s, for instance, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) set interest rates at 0% to counter deflation and promote economic growth.
This low cost of borrowing enables businesses and governments to accumulate debt much more freely, and has seen widespread use among other developed nations post-2008.
What are the Risks?
Given that a majority of countries in this visual are red (meaning their debt-to-GDP ratios are over 50%), it’s safe to say that government borrowing is common practice.
But are large government debts a cause for concern?
Some believe that excessive borrowing will lead to higher interest costs in the long run, which could detract from economic growth and public sector investment. This theory is unlikely to become a reality anytime soon, however.
A recent report by RBC Wealth Management reported that the cost of servicing U.S. federal debt actually decreased in 2020, thanks to the low borrowing costs mentioned previously.
Perhaps a more prescient question would be: how long can the world’s central banks keep interest rates at near-zero levels?
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