The Forbes 400 or 400 Richest Americans is a list published by Forbes magazine of the wealthiest 400 American residents, ranked by net worth. The 400 was started by Malcolm Forbes in 1982 and the list is published annually around September. Peter W. Bernstein and Annalyn Swan describe the Forbes 400 as capturing "a period of extraordinary individual and entrepreneurial energy, a time unlike the extended postwar years, from 1945 to 1982, when American society emphasized the power of corporations." Bernstein and Swan also describe it as representing "a powerful argument – and sometimes a dream – about the social value of wealth in contemporary America."
Inherited wealth may help explain why many Americans who have become rich may have had a "substantial head start". In September 2012, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, "over 60 percent" of the Forbes richest 400 Americans "grew up in substantial privilege". The list of members of the Forbes 400 is updated usually in September of each year.
The Forbes 400 reports who dominates the wealth in United States. They annually create a list of the richest people in America to exhibit the shape of the economy. The magazine displays the story of someone's rise to fame, their company, age, industrial residence, and education. The list portrays the financial shift of trends, leadership positions, and growing philanthropy intentions.
In the first Forbes 400 list, there were only 13 billionaires, and a net worth of US$75 million secured a spot on the list. The 1982 list represented 2.8% of the Gross Domestic Product of the United States. The 1982 Forbes 400 had 22.8% of the list composed of oil fortunes, with 15.3% from manufacturing, 9% from finance and only 3% from technology driven fortunes. The state of New York had the most representation on the list with 77 members followed by California with 48.
In the year 2000, Forbes 400 saw the highest percent of the Gross Domestic Product represented by the list at 12.2% driven by the internet boom.
Over the first 25 years of the Forbes 400 list, 1,302 distinct people made the list. In that time period, 97 immigrants (7.5%) and 202 women (15.5%) made the list. Four of the top five richest people in the United States in 2006 were college dropouts: Bill Gates, Sheldon Adelson, Larry Ellison, and Paul Allen.
A few articles draw on data of the Forbes 400 to test an evolutionary hypothesis referred to as the Trivers–Willard hypothesis. This hypothesis predicts that parents of high socioeconomic status produce more male offspring than parents of lower socioeconomic status. Whereas an earlier study using data on the Forbes 400 shows a strong effect for U.S. billionaires that is consistent with the Trivers-Willard hypothesis, a more recent study shows some caveats: First, the result is only consistent for male, but not female, billionaires. Second, it can only be found among heirs and not self-made billionaires.
This has to do with the timing of wealth accumulation: some self-made billionaires had their children before they were rich, but heirs, by definition, were rich before ever becoming parents (see also ). Third, the size of the effect was largely overestimated, given that male offspring of billionaires as compared to female offspring is easier to find on the Web: Women sometimes change their last name upon marriage which makes some harder to find. Therefore, earlier reports on the male bias among billionaire offspring were partially an artifact of sample selection.
In 2010, a Business Insider ethnic-demographic breakdown of the Forbes 400 richest Americans found 3 gays, 4 Indians, 6 (non-Indian) Asians, and 34 women on the list. Additionally, American Jews made up as many as 30% of the richest 100, and (at least, in 2009) 139 of the Forbes 400. In 2017, just two African Americans made the Forbes 400: media proprietor Oprah Winfrey and tech investor Robert Smith; only five members of the Forbes 400 have Latino backgrounds.