Elon Musk tweeted in May that the richer people are, the fewer kids they have. A review of U.S. billionaires proves him wrong.
On Wednesday, court documents revealed that tech billionaire and entrepreneur Elon Musk, 51, secretly had twins with Shivon Zilis, a top executive at Musk-founded Neuralink, in November 2021, a month before he had a daughter via surrogate with former girlfriend Grimes. Zilis had worked with Musk at Tesla prior to joining Neuralink.
Musk, who is the world’s wealthiest person—worth more than $200 billion — now has nine children with three women, including triplets and two sets of twins. A 10th child, his first born, died at 10 weeks. “Kids are worth it, if at all possible, I’m planning to increase childcare benefits at my companies significantly,” he tweeted, in response to a person asking why people shouldn’t have kids for financial reasons. He added that the Musk Foundation plans to donate directly to families, and that details were to be announced next month. “I hope you have big families and congrats to those who already do!” he tweeted.
Musk has been an outspoken proponent of Americans having more kids, tweeting in May that the U.S. birth rate has been “below min sustainable levels for 50 years.” In response to the breaking news about the previously undisclosed twins, Musk tweeted that he was “doing my best to help the underpopulation crisis,” and said that a “collapsing birth rate is the biggest danger civilization faces by far.”
The conversation drew many supporters, including TV host and father of eight Nick Cannon, who tweeted, “Right there with you my brother!” But some believe Musk’s comments are controversial. After all, the U.S. population has, in fact, been growing every year, in part thanks to immigration and longer life spans.
Some are also critical of how he parents. “His negligent parenting of children he rarely sees and hardly knows is shameful. Unlike Steve Jobs, at least he has acknowledged his financial support responsibilities but has shrugged off the care and nurturing of these young people,” says Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld, a dean of Leadership Studies at the Yale School of Management. “It is quite ironic if not hypocritical for GOP Musk acolytes to celebrate his model of American moral character with such disdainful family values in practice.”
An earlier comment in May from Musk also posited that he was rare among rich people in having so many kids. “Contrary to what many think, the richer someone is, the fewer kids they have. I am a rare exception. Most people I know have zero or one kid,” he tweeted on May 24.
Based on a Forbes analysis of more than 700 U.S. billionaires, however, he’s wrong in his assumption. These ultra-rich have an average of 2.3 children, above the recent 1.93 average for average Americans, according to Statista. When you take into account only those billionaires who have kids, the average number of children jumps to 3.1.
Musk is also far from the only billionaire with his or her own baby boom. There are 22 U.S. billionaires with seven or more kids, including movie director Steven Spielberg and New York Mets owner Steve Cohen. Some, like conservative Republican Farris Wilks, who is the pastor of his own church, the Assembly of Yahweh Seventh Day Church, near Cisco, Texas, have had all their children with one partner. Others like Musk and Ron Perelman, father of eight, have had them with multiple women. It’s not just men. America’s richest self-made woman Diane Hendricks has seven kids, as does Little Caesars Pizza cofounder Marian Ilitch.
“Being a parent is the most important calling we can have in life. It’s also the most rewarding.”
The billionaire with the most children—he has 15—is Suhail Bahwan of Oman. In the U.S. such bragging rights belong to the richest person in Idaho, Frank VanderSloot, founder and CEO of Melaleuca, a manufacturer and online retailer of 450 health and wellness products, and the father of 14. “Being a parent is the most important calling we can have in life,” he told Forbes. “It’s also the most rewarding.”
With additional reporting by Rashi Shrivastava
Below are nine Americans including Musk with nine or more children.
Raised on a farm in Northern Idaho, VanderSloot converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a teenager and is a big Republican donor. Now 73, he has six children from his first marriage and eight from his current wife’s first marriage. They’ve been married for 26 years
The petroleum industry titan and his wife Jo Ann have been linked to conservative Christian groups and PACs, and donated $125,000 to Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign and Ted Cruz’s 2015 presidential bid. They also donated to Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.
Founder of software companies Workday and PeopleSoft, Duffield and his wife Cheryl have 10 children (five of whom they adopted), seven grandchildren, four parrots and four dogs. His nonprofit Maddie’s Fund has doled out $255 million in grants to groups focused on animal welfare and eliminating kill shelters across the U.S. He donated to Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.
Moyes founded Swift Transportation with his father in 1966 with one truck, moving cotton and imported steel between Arizona and California. He and his wife Vickie have been married since the 1980s and have 10 children together. The Arizona resident donated to Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.
The fund founder and activist investor has 10 children between three marriages, and is currently married to former model Claudia Heffner. The native New Yorker’s daughter, Nicola, starred in The Transformers and Bates Motel; she married Brooklyn Beckham, son of British soccer star David Beckham and former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, in a lavish three-day wedding celebration in May at her father’s oceanfront estate in Palm Beach. Son Will Peltz starred in Men, Women and Children. Peltz donated to Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.
Best Buy founder and chairman Schulze and his wife Maureen both lost their first spouses to mesothelioma cancer and donated $6 million to Moffitt Cancer Center in 2018.
The founder of FedEx has 10 children from two marriages. His son Richard is set to take over as head of FedEx’s Express division later this year. His son Arthur is the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. Another son, Cannon, the youngest of the 10, played football for the University of Memphis and is now COO of H&H Services Group.
Musk has nine children. He had six children with Canadian author Justine Wilson, to whom he was married from 2000 to 2008. Their first child died at 10 weeks. The couple then had twins, followed by triplets. Musk also has two children with musician Grimes. The first was born in March 2020 and the second in December 2021. He also had twins in November 2021 with onetime Tesla colleague Shivon Zilis, who works at Musk-founded Neuralink.
Smith reportedly moved his family to Utah around the time he started working at Brigham Young University, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A cancer survivor, he helped his two sons, Ryan and Jared, found computing company Qualtrics. Jared is chairman of the company, which the family sold to SAP in 2019; it went public in 2021.
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