According to an analysis by the University of California-Berkely’s Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics, the six children of Walmart’s founders, Sam and James “Bud” Walton, had the same net worth in 2007 as the entire bottom 30 percent of American earners. That means that these six individual’s net worth equalled the bottom 100 million Americans. And the number has grown even more disparate since 2007 as the Walton family fortune has grown by another $20 billion while the lower income groups in this country have seen their wages shrink even further.
The difference between the wealth of the Walmart heirs and the rest of the country epitomizes a much larger American story. The top one percent of American earners saw their incomes grow 275 percent between 1979 and 2007, according to the Congressional Budget Office, while the bottom one-fifth experienced only 20 percent income growth during the same period.
Looking at it another way: The top 10 percent of U.S. earners control two-thirds of the country’s wealth and the richest 400 Americans control as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of Americans. The difference is so stark that the public opinion has turned against it: nearly three-quarters of respondents to a poll put out by The Hill said they think income inequality is a problem.
But the rise in income inequality isn’t limited to America. In 17 out of 22 countries the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development tracks, the wealth gap has grown more pronounced since 1985. In addition, the world’s millionaires control nearly 40 percent of global wealth, according to a Credit Suisse report cited by the Wall Street Journal.