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Wal-Mart heirs worth as much as bottom 41.5% of American families

Wal-Mart heirs worth as much as bottom 41.5% of American families
Rob Walton speaks during the annual Wal-Mart shareholders meeting in Fayetteville, Ark., in 2007. He and his relatives were worth $89.5 billion in 2010. (April L. Brown / Associated Press)

The Walton family, heirs to the founders of the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. superchain, are worth nearly as much as the bottom half of American households combined.

The Waltons' value -- $89.5 billion in 2010 – is equal to the worth of the 41.5% of families at the lower end of the income ladder, according to an analysis by Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute. That comes out to 48.8 million households.

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And as the mid-point of family net worth fell 38.8% in the U.S. between 2007 and 2010 to $77,300, the Waltons' fortune grew an inflation-adjusted $16.2 billion.

To match such a pot would require 1.16 million households with the median wealth, according to Bivens. That's roughly the population of San Diego.

Last year, a researcher from UC Berkeley concluded that the six children of Sam and James Walton – who launched Wal-Mart in the 1960s – were as wealthy in 2007 as the bottom 30% of Americans combined.

Household net worth took a 35% dive from 2005 to 2010, according to recent data from the Census Bureau. Recent pay raises don't amount to much, considering the impact of inflation.

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