Family, Education, and Sources of Wealth Among the Richest Americans, 1982-2012

Family, Education, and Sources of Wealth Among the Richest Americans, 1982-2012

By
Steven N. Kaplan, Joshua D. Rauh
American Economic Review. May
2013, Vol. 103, Issue 3, Pages 158-162

We examine characteristics of the 400 wealthiest individuals in the United States over the past three decades as tabulated by Forbes Magazine, and analyze which theories of increasing inequality are most consistent with these data. The people of the Forbes 400 in recent years did not grow up as advantaged as in decades past. They are more likely to have started their businesses and to have grown up upper-middle class, not wealthy. Today’s Forbes 400 were able to access education while young, and apply their skills to the most scalable industries: technology, finance, and mass retail. Most of the change occurred by 2001.