13 Sumptuous Old Money Families Statistics for 2023
Updated · May 20, 2023
We bet you’ve heard of the aristocracy.
We also assume that you associate it predominantly with olden European societies, long since abolished.
Lastly, we imagine you think America is egalitarian in nature and has no societal class that consists entirely of wealth-mongering dynasties.
Well, you’re wrong.
A form of aristocracy very much exists in the present-day US, though it goes by a different moniker now.
Keep reading. We have all the old money families statistics that you need to know right here.
Lavish Statistics About the Wealthy (Editor’s Choice)
- 79% of the world’s current millionaires received no inheritance at all.
- Only 3% of millionaires received inheritances of more than $1 million.
- Only a fourth of millennials believe that millionaires are self-made.
- 68% of the wealthiest people are self-made.
- The number of millionaire households dropped dramatically in 2008, but has been steadily rising since then.
- In 2020, almost 22 million individuals in the US were millionaires.
- Aside from the US, China (5.2 million), Japan (3.6 million), and Germany (2.9 million) are the countries that house the most millionaires.
Wealthiest Families in the World: The Aristocracy Redux
Wealthy people, and specifically, wealthy families, are prime targets for conspiracy theorists. The wealthier and the longer they have possessed their wealth for, the better.
However, as it turns out, it’s not actually the oldest families who hold the most power—at least not anymore.
1. The richest family in the world is worth $238 billion.
You’ve probably heard all about the world’s richest people—we’re sure Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos ring a bell—but it appears that the media is somewhat reluctant to speak much of the wealthiest families.
Or maybe it’s just that there isn’t much to say about them, since hardly anything’s changed in the past half a century.
Case in point: the world’s richest family is the Waltons, who derive their mammoth wealth from Walmart. Samuel Walton founded the company, opening the first Walmart store in 1962.
Although he passed away in 1992, his heirs have inherited much of his wealth—Jim, Alice, and Rob Walton each possess more than $60 billion.
Fun fact: 16 of the top 20 family dynasties from the Forbes 1983 list also made an appearance on the Forbes 2020 list.
2. NYC hosts the number two and three wealthiest families.
While the Waltons never quite succeeded in bringing Walmart into the big city, many other wealthy families have been based in New York for decades.
Among the most well-known old money families in New York City are both the number two and three—the Koch ($100 billion) and Mars ($94 billion) families.
While the latter's fame stems from the eponymous Mars bar (as well as M&Ms and dozens of other confectionery products), the former has recently been in the limelight primarily because of Charles and David Koch’s anti-environmentalism.
(Hardly a surprise, if you ask us, considering the family derives its wealth from oil refinement.)
Other affluent families in NYC are the Newhouse, Cox, Goldman, and Lauder families.
3. The most powerful families in America today aren’t the oldest.
(Source: Visual Capitalist)
Surely you’ve heard of Rockefeller, the US’ first billionaire. At his peak, he held approximately $315 billion (adjusted), substantially more than even the likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in the present day.
Anyway, a hundred years later, his family is still among the wealthiest—though with a total net worth of only $8.4 billion. According to old money families statistics, this places them at number 43 in the list of the richest families in the US
Other familiar names, such as the Vanderbilts or the Astors, don’t even make the top 50 anymore.
So while old money families are indisputably big, numbers speak facts, and it seems like even in the world of the ultra rich, a century or so is enough to rearrange the list.
4. Old money American families have European ancestry.
(Source: The Richest)
Have you noticed how many of these families have very cool-sounding names?
Yeah, that’s because they’re old. Or, to be more precise, because they were direct descendants of European families from all over the continent.
There are many old money surnames that just have a certain ring to them that we love—Astor (Italian), Griswold (English), Pitcairn (Scottish), Du Pont (French), Roosevelt (Holland), Hartwick (English/German), Van Leer (Dutch), Vanderbilt (Dutch).
Most of these families still exist, though their fortunes are now scattered among hundreds of descendants.
All the same, many are billionaires.
Old Money vs New Money
While it’s true that the rich tend to remain rich, the millionaire and billionaire classes have grown dramatically. Generational wealth isn’t quite as common as it once was.
In other words, there are clearly many newcomers who became wealthy through their own hard work. Let’s talk a bit about them.
5. What percent of millionaires are self-made?
(Source: Ramsey Solutions)
Well, it depends on the definition of “self-made” you wish to employ.
79% of millionaires did not inherit any money. Those folks are obviously self-made, no doubt about it.
It gets a bit tricky beyond that since the remaining 21% did inherit some wealth, but the vast majority only received very little—under $100,000, that is. In fact, only 3% of all millionaires inherited more than $1 million.
In other words, up to 97% of the world’s current millionaires worked for their money (at least to a degree).
6. Up to 91.5% of the ultra-rich are self-made.
Now that you know just how many millionaires are self-made, you’re probably curious about those pesky multimillionaires and billionaires, too. No worries—we’ve got you covered.
First and foremost, when we say “ultra-rich,” we mean those people who boast a $30+ million net worth.
Now, old money families statistics show that only 8.5% of the ultra-rich inherited their entire wealth. On the other hand, 67.7% of them didn’t inherit any money whatsoever. The remaining 23.8% inherited some money, but not enough to grant them entrance into this elite club.
7. Old money has more to it than pure wealth.
(Source: Encyclopedia Virginia)
The new money vs old money debate has an often overlooked aspect to it—namely, that of “power” and “influence” and not simply wealth.
We already told you that it isn’t the oldest families that are the wealthiest nowadays, and we stand by our words. But it is some of the oldest ones who exert the most influence in general.
For instance, you might have heard of one Harry Byrd (actually, two Harry Byrds, Sr., and Jr.), who led the eponymous Byrd Organization throughout much of the 20th century. Put simply, it was a political machine that practically controlled Virginia until a few decades ago.
And who are these Byrd guys?
Descendants of one of the First Families of Virginia, of course.
Old Money Demographics
Old money refers to wealth that an individual or a family has generated at some point in time, and their descendants have inherited.
In terms of demographics, then, it should come as no surprise that the majority of the richest families in history are predominantly white.
That said, influential black millionaires started to appear as early as the late nineteenth century, so the demographics of the rich might not be quite as you expect.
8. 2% of black households own more than $1 million in assets.
How many black millionaires are there in America in 2022?
Estimations say around 340,000 families. It’s still below the average for the country, at just 2% of black households breaking the millionaire mark.
For comparison, one in every seven white families have a net worth of over $1 million.
Furthermore, the median net worth of families stands at $188,000 for white households, and at merely $24,000 for their black counterparts.
Now that you know how many black millionaires there are in the US, how about we peer into a much more exclusive club?
9. There are seven black billionaires in the US.
(Source: USA Today)
There are a total of 2,755 billionaires in the world. 614 of them are American (that’s about 22%). Of those 614, just seven persons are black, which is less than 1% of US billionaires. You’ve probably heard of some of them.
Oprah Winfrey ranks #1,174 on the global list with a $2.7 billion net worth.
Performers Kanye West and Jay-Z are billionaires, too, with $1.8 billion and $1.4 billion, respectively. Michael Jordan, the prodigious basketball player, comes at #1,931 with $1.6 billion.
As you can imagine, all of them are self-made billionaires. Several even grew up when American society was still segregated.
The wealthiest black man in the US is relatively lesser-known. Robert F. Smith, the CEO of investment firm Vista Equity Partners, holds $6 billion, which makes him #451 on the worldwide list.
Fun fact: There are only 12 black billionaires in the world, as well as five billionaires of mixed black ancestry.
10. 11.5% of American billionaires are female.
(Source: Visual Capitalist)
Traditionally, men dominate the billionaire world, but women are now entering the Forbes Billionaires list by the dozens every year. Still, the majority of them only make it to the list due to inherited wealth.
Case in point: out of the top 10 richest women, only one is a self-made billionaire.
The first place goes to Alice Walton, heiress to Sam Walton, with a net worth of $68.1 billion.
Number two is McKenzie Scott with a fortune of $56.1 billion. She’s Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife and holds a 4% stake in Amazon. Unsurprisingly, Julia Koch, Jacqueline Mars, and Miriam Adelson also make the list—old money families, remember?
The only self-made billionaire to make the top 10 is Diane Hendricks, the CEO of ABC Supply and Hendricks Holding Company. Her wealth ($11.7 billion) earns her the eighth spot on the list of the richest women in the US.
A Few More Interesting Facts About Old Money
Let’s go over a few more tidbits about the world’s wealthiest families.
11. The top 5% are worth more than $1 million.
In fact, recent statistics show that up to 8% of the US population are millionaires.
Moreover, the average annual wage of someone in the top 5% is estimated to be $342,000. This number stood at around $150,000 in 1979, which means the earnings of the top 5% have grown by nearly 120% over the past 40 years.
The top 2 percent’s net worth, on the other hand, stands at an average of $2.5 million. Their wealth is also increasing at an even faster pace.
For comparison, the bottom 90% have only seen a 28% growth in annual earnings.
12. John D. Rockefeller was the world’s richest man…ever.
(Source: Library of Congress)
When it comes to the rich of the past, calculating their exact wealth in present-day dollars is surprisingly difficult. Let’s talk about the Rockefeller family's worth, for example.
Here’s what we know for a fact:
- John Rockefeller became the world’s first billionaire in 1916.
- By the time of his death in 1937, estimates put his wealth at around 1.5% of the US GDP at the time.
So, if we consider the country’s GDP to be $93 billion in 1937 and then do the math, it would technically be correct to say that his wealth was around $1.4 billion back then, which would be about $28 billion today. To be honest, that figure is really not that much in the world of white billionaires.
If, however, we consider today’s GDP and then do the math, we get that Rockefeller’s wealth was actually around $315 billion. Now that is a properly impressive number, as well as a more accurate representation of Rockefeller’s purchasing power, and therefore, his wealth.
Fun fact: The only person to get close to this sort of wealth is Elon Musk, who momentarily hit $306 billion in November 2021. His net worth is closer to $212 billion in 2022, though.
13. Old money appears in literature, too.
Take Fitzgerald’s premier work, for example. The new money vs old money theme in The Great Gatsby is central to the story, with much of the plot built around it.
The main character is rich—very rich—but his wealth is self-made (aka, it’s new money). Tom and Daisy come from the old-money world. The result? Daisy chooses to marry Tom and not Gatsby. She prefers the stability and the social network she’d get by marrying into nobility.
Another crucial motif is the gaping pit between West Egg (Gatsby’s world) and East Egg (old money world). Despite his riches, Gatsby has to live in the West Egg. He can only look at Tom and Daisy’s world from across the water.
Metaphorically speaking, this holds true today. Most old money families are based in New York, whereas the majority of new self-made millionaires live in California.
At the end of the day, there will always be some lucky people who are born into wealth and have an easier life than most. Realistically, though, even among the rich, the majority didn’t have a life of luxury handed to them on a silver platter.
On the contrary—they worked to earn their nouveau riche denomination.
While your belonging (or lack thereof) to the world of nobility may be determined by birth, your ability to accrue vast wealth isn’t. The old money families statistics above prove it.
So, don’t worry—if you were to suddenly find yourself with a few millions in your pocket, you probably won’t experience what Gatsby once did.
A wayfarer by heart, Jordan fancies journeying into foreign lands with a camera in hand almost as much as he enjoys roving the online world. He spends his time poking at letters and pixels, trying to transmogrify them into something cool.