15 facts about wealth and income inequality in the U.S. that will shock you.

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The richest people in the United States are getting richer at an alarming rate, while the middle class and poorest families are losing ground on both wealth and wage inequality. The wealth gap has gotten markedly worse since the recession and especially the recovery, so much so that we’re at levels not seen since the Great Depression.

Those are the findings of prominent economists like Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucmanm, respected organizations like the Pew Research Center, and credible studies like the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances.

Here are 15 facts about the inequality of wealth and wages in the United States that will shock you.

1. The median wealth of upper-income families is now 6.6 times that of middle-income families. That’s up significantly from even 2010, when it was 6.2 times greater.

2. The same group of upper-income families is now about 70 times wealthier than low-income families. Both of those numbers are all-time highs as far back as records were kept.

3. To put it in perspective, in the 1980s the richest households were only 3.4 times wealthier than the average of middle-income households.

4. Wealth among middle-income families stayed about the same between 2010 and 2013, the period of the economic recovery, at an average of $96,500 per household. But during that same time, the wealth of upper-income families skyrocketed from $595,300 to $639,400. In that same period, lower-income wealth dipped from $10,500 to $9,300, which puts it at levels seen in the 1990s.

5. The top 1% of wealthiest families in the United States have seen more income growth in recent decades than any other developed country in the world.

6. In the 1970s, the total income (not wealth) earned by the top 1% was less than 10 percent. But by the end of 2012 their income percentage had doubled to 20 percent.

7. The wealth of the held by the top 3 percent of American families has climbed from 44.8 percent in 1989 to 51.8 percent in 2007 and now a whopping 54.4 percent.

8. That means the top 3 percent of families hold more than twice the wealth of the poorest 90 percent in the United States.

9. The profile of the top 1% families shows they save about 35 percent of their income, while the bottom 90 percent save close to zero percent.

10. 94.5 percent of Americans hold some sort of financial asset, like savings, stocks, real estate with equity, or life insurance with cash value. But the wealthiest 10 percent of families hold a stunning 85 percent of all these assets.


11. Over the past 100 years, wealth inequality has followed a U-shaped pattern. From the Great Depression through the 1970s there was a great democratization of wealth, with an increasingly bountiful middle class and even lower class gain. By the 1970s, the top 1 perfect of families held 7 percent of the nation’s wealth. But since the 1970s, those numbers have reverted back to Great Depression levels, and now that same 1 percent hold about 22 percent of all wealth.

12. The richest 1 percent of Americans – which consists of 160,000 families – hold an average of $20 million in net assets each. That means that those same 160,000 families have more wealth than the poorest 145 million families combined!

13. Wealth inequality is now about 10 times as high as income inequality in this country.

14. But it’s not just the 1 percent of wealthiest families who are seeing big gains; more specifically, it’s the top .01 percent of wealthiest families, or about 16,000 of the richest Americans. That top .01 percent has seen a huge boom in wealth, while the next .09 percent (together making the top 1 percent) have barely seen a growth in wealth. And the next 10 percent of wealthiest families have actually seen their wealth shrink.

15. But the burden is still on the middle class and lower class. The bottom 90 percent of families in this country grew quite well from the 1920s through the 1980s, going from 15 percent to 36 percent of total wealth. However, since the 1980s, that percentage of wealth fell back down to 23 percent, or 1940s levels.

In part 2 of this article we’ll looking into the reasons for the profound income and wealth disparities in the United States.


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