Do You Have The Ultimate Symbol of Wealth?



What do you think is the ultimate symbol of wealth?  A huge mansion?  A six-figure vehicle?  A private jet?  No, it’s none of those.  


ultimate symbol of wealthToday, the ultimate symbol of wealth is having a lot of children.  This is according to Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., author of the book Primates of Park Avenue.  Martin says, “Three was the new two, something you just did in this habitat. Four was the new three — previously conversation stopping, but now nothing unusual. Five was no longer crazy or religious — it just meant you were rich. And six was apparently the new town house — or Gulfstream.”


Celebrity Families

We are constantly inundated with news coverage about celebrities and famous people having babies.  Their families are rapidly expanding.  For instance, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have six children, Steven Spielberg has seven children, and Mel Gibson has eight children.  Hollywood families are growing bigger and bigger, but they’re not the only ones.


The Top 1%

Steven Martin, Senior Research Associate at New York University, says, “Families in the top 10% or even top 5% of household earnings aren’t having detectably larger families.”


However, in terms of Americans in the top 1-1.5%: “There has been a significant rise in the proportion of three- and four-child families among the super-rich.”


He also went on to say that the number of affluent American families with four or more kids increased from 7% in 1991-1996 to 11% in 1998-2004.


ultimate symbol of wealthIn 2008, author Pamela Paul said, “The Analysis of Current Population Survey data by the Council on Contemporary Families found that in the past 10 years, the top-earning 1.3% of the population has seen an uptick in families with three or more children. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 12% of upper-income women had three children or more in 2002, compared with only 3% in 1995.”


Average Children Born per Woman

Take a look at the CIA World Factbook list below.  As you can see, the top 10 countries hardly have anything in common with the bottom 10.

Top in Rankings

ultimate symbol of wealth


Bottom in Rankings

ultimate symbol of wealth


Rich vs. Poor Countries

We see more children per mother in developing (poorer) countries versus developed (richer) countries.


One might assume that the richer the country, the more kids women would have since they have access to better resources.  However, there are explanations as to why fertility rates drop as countries become wealthier.  


In wealthier countries, many women choose to work outside of the home and also have greater access to birth control to allow women the choice of when to become pregnant.


In addition, the pressure of raising children in a materialistic society may quell the desire to have more children.  It’s already hard enough to keep up with the Joneses as it is.  Most parents want to maximize the opportunities they can provide for their children.  


Finally, wealthier countries typically have nationalized social security systems, so there is lesser need for parents to depend on their children for future care.


Rise in Birth Rates

According to Dr. Mikko Myrskyla, we mainly see a rise in birth rates when parents can afford additional children without compromising care for the ones that they already have.


New York City

Actress Tina Fey said, “I thought that raising an only child would be the norm in New York, but I’m pretty sure my daughter is the only child in her class without a sibling. All over Manhattan, large families have become a status symbol. Four beautiful children named after kings and pieces of fruit are a way of saying, ‘I can afford a four-bedroom apartment and $150,000 in elementary-school tuition fees each year. How you livin’?’”


In the New York City, having a big family is truly a status symbol.  While it’s expensive to raise children in U.S., according to the latest figures- $233,610, it’s even more expensive in New York City.  USDA economist Mark Lino stated that due to New York City’s overall cost of living, he anticipated parents would need to pay nearly $500,000 or twice what the average US household pays to raise a child.


This figure makes sense.  Some of New York City’s top K-12 private schools exceed $50,000 a year in tuition, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Could you imagine having five children in a private school?  You’d have to shell out a quarter of a million dollars every year just for schooling.


Is there any upside to having lots of children, other than the symbol of wealth?


Happy Parents

According to Dr. Bronwyn Harman of Australia’s Edith Cowan University, the happiest parents are those with four or more children.  


Parents of large families were found to have the highest life satisfaction.  Interestingly enough, even though large families have more chaos and expenses than smaller families, Dr. Harman’s research shows that these children have higher levels of independence at younger ages.  They are also rarely bored since they always have a playmate.  


Of course, I am not necessarily advocating that you should have more children.  It is simply interesting that children are the latest status symbols, when previously these symbols were the latest jet or vacation house.


So readers, what do you think about this trend among the ultra wealthy?  Does it surprise you?  Share your thoughts below.

Mustard Seed Money

Welcome to the website. A mustard seed is a very small seed but astonishingly grows very large over time. My hope is that through your financial journey that your small investment in time, money and faith will grow beyond anything that you could ever imagine.


  1. I have noticed this a bit but didn’t know statistics actually prove it. My friend’s wife is actually one of nine and her dad is probably in the 1% of the 1%. It seems like on the other end of the spectrum people are still having a lot of kids too though. This is just anecdotal but it seems a lot of people in the lower say 10% have larger families. Is that true?

    My wife is one of six (middle-class family) and she can speak to some of the pros and cons of having a lot of siblings.

    Right now one is feeling like a lot in our house.

  2. This is totally new to me Mr MSM! But fascinating! I didn’t think wealthier family had more children, I always assumed it was slightly less because of the focus on career that delayed optimal baby making.

    My husband’s grandfather was an high level executive at PG&E in the 80s and he had 8 very successful kids. But I figured that’s just…actually I have no idea. All I know was grandma had a near mental breakdown taking care of 8 kids and grandpa was too stingy to hire help. Ahahaha ;(

    “Four beautiful children named after kings”
    Lol! That…ok..I’ve seen that. That’s a very upper class thing to do hahaha.

    • Thanks for stopping by Lily!!! I had no idea that it was a thing either until I stumbled upon it in an article. Definitely makes sense when you have everything that you could ever dream of life, why not make more mini-me’s 🙂

  3. Very interesting trend! I am definitely not among the wealthiest but , with three kids, I definitely feel like above average most of the time. Most people seem to have two tops. And yes they are very expensive:)

  4. It makes sense when you think about it. The middle class by definition gets no govt help with those kids and is probably making decisions based on at least some financial reasoning or they’d shift to poor. So they know they can only have so many kids and still be financially ok. The rich meanwhile have no such financial constraints. If you assume all populations are equally likely to want more kids then the end result is more likely. The bigger question is, do they have more kids because they believe they can afford it or does status motivate them to have more kids in some other way.

    • Thanks for stopping by Full Time Finance!!! It’s definitely interesting to see what happens when constraints are involved. I do wonder how many people would have additional children if money was no object. I know my wife loves kids so we’ll see how many we end up with but we are firmly in the middle class.

  5. Mustard Seed Money – I love how analytical your posts are! I think you and Financial Samurai are kindred spirits.

    We have two – now adult – sons. I can confirm that it’s definitely expensive to raise children. But so worth it in the end. 🙂

    I live in downtown Philly and I see many parents with pre-schoolers living here. There are not many school-age children though. I think many parents move to the burbs when their children become school-age for the cheaper housing and better free public schools.

  6. I never pay much attention to status symbols nor do I really care about it. However, having lots of children as a status symbol kinda struck me.

    From the data, it starts to shed some light as raising a child in an expensive is definitely not easy. If you can raise half a dozen or so, you’ve got to make a boatload of money.

    From a happiness point of view, having a huge family can bring you more joy, but the it’s just too much responsibility. Two is more than enough for me.

    • Thanks for sharing Leo!!! It always seems that people’s eyes bulge out if there are more than four kids in a family. I went to high school with someone that is the parent of nine biological kids. Now that is a lot happiness 🙂

  7. Interesting findings! I didn’t know the 1% in America are having more kids. I think it’s a general trend that people in developed countries don’t have as many kids as those in developing countries.

    In Vietnam, it used to be that each couple could have only 2 kids. It was a family planning policy to prevent a rapid increase in population and dwindling scarce resources. In China, as you might already know, they used to have a one child policy, but the wealthy could have more kids if they were willing to pay a fine.

    Having kids seems to be such a personal choice, but it can have such a huge impact on the economy and politics.

    • I definitely wonder what would have happened if certain countries didn’t impose child restrictions. It’d definitely be interesting to see what the world would look like today.

  8. Well, that’s just a bundle of messed up!

    I am more than happy with just two although maybe that mentality would change if we were higher up in the income brackets. The daycare bill for just one makes me sick…I try not to think about when baby 2 goes to daycare. Our reasons for only two is mostly sanity related. If you have 3+ then you are on zone defense 😉

    Probably should add a part about child mortality rates and parent education which are big factors in lower income/3rd world countries having more children.

    • My wife and I are going from two on one defense to man to man very soon. I can’t even imagine going to zone defense but maybe the rich don’t have to worry about that with the hiring of nannies.

  9. Interesting. Hopefully the 1% are having more children for the right reasons, not just status. You can’t slap a for sale sign on the kids once the luster wears off like you can with a posh vacation home on the ocean.

  10. Hmm…I guess that’s why I have one…well, that and starting late. I guess the wealthiest folks can easily afford extra help for more than one. Aside from them, daycare and college costs hurt.

    • Daycare and college definitely hurt. I can’t even imagine how much they rich pay for daycare and educational costs along with vacations and housing. It definitely can’t be cheap.

  11. A constant discussion in our family. We always thought we would have 2 or 3, then we had 1…he is amazing but it is not easy. Not just the raising of the kid, but the pregnancy and delivery (none of which went off without a hitch for my wife)….still it would be fun to have a herd of kids running around.

    • Thanks for sharing DDD!!! I thought having children would be much easier than it has been. I clearly had no idea what I was getting into. But it’s been totally worth it 🙂

  12. This is very true! We discussed this trend while I was in college. Nowadays it’s becoming more popular for affluent families to have more than 2 children. It’s definitely a sign of status that you can support so many kiddos.

  13. I read somewhere the global population is expected peak at around 12 billion before plateauing and dropping. As you highlighted, the wealthier a country is, the less they have children.

    As developing nations catch up with developed nations, their birth rates will gradually get less and less whilst the developed nations will remain low. Eventually the global birth rate will become low enough that the death rate matches it.

  14. It might cost a lot to raise a child, but it doesn’t cost a lot times 2 to raise two kids. If you have 2 boys, you can you use a lot of the same clothes and some hand me down toys. And it’s not like you have to buy double the food, but yes more food. I’m not too surprised by these statistics; it does seem like a trend and I guess celebrities and ultra rich want more family time nowadays, which is great!

  15. Never heard of this. It’s not status, it’s all economic. The lowest income countries don’t have as many options to limit pregnancies. The middle class here do have options and can’t afford too many kids. The affluent can afford multiple kids so they have them.

  16. Although this is a new supposed symbol of wealth, I was raised as an only child, and loved getting all of the attention and toys! I did have to work harder though as I was the only “pride” of my family.

  17. That’s such an interesting point! I have trouble picturing more than my two kids; it’s just SO LOUD all the time! Certainly, it must ease the stress of a large family when you can afford nannies and extra help. I personally would love a larger brood of four or five, but only because I think it’d be great once they were grown (not so much the many years raising them) It seems so cool to have a lot of siblings, but of course, everyone has to survive childhood first!
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