Here are some more thoughts and excerpts I pulled from the Wealth
in America: Who Gets What and How Wealthy Were the Forbes 400 Richest
Billionaires in 2008 Relative to America’s Bottom Half? paper.
The household at the 90th percentile had 4,157 times as much wealth as the household at the 10th percentile, 129 times as much wealth as a household at the 20th percentile, and 9 times as much wealth as the median household. The wealth distribution in the U.S. was extraordinarily concentrated at the very top in 2004, far more concentrated than the annual income or earnings distribution.
The median household in the
U.S. in 2004 had 4 times as much income as a household at the 10th percentile but it had 465 times as much wealth, a relative difference of 113 times. The top/middle ratio (90/50) was characterized by the smallest relative difference, but even here wealth inequality was 3.3 times higher than income inequality. At the very top of the distribution (top 5%) wealth is also much more concentrated than income in our nation.
Thus, the bottom 50 percent of the U.S. households accounted for only 2.6% of all of the wealth in the country in 2004.
The top quartile’s share of the combined national wealth rose from 84.5% to 87.1% between 1992 and 2004 while the shares of the second and third quartile declined and the bottom quartile’s share remained at 0 in every year…. The rise in the share of wealth captured by the top quartile over the 1992-2004 period was almost entirely attributable to the behavior of households in the top decile of the distribution. Between 1992 and 2004, their estimated share of wealth increased from 67.0% to 69.5%. If we had included the wealth of the 400 richest billionaires in 2008 in that total for the top decile, their share of the national wealth would have risen close to 73%.
Caner and Wolff have estimated that 26% of all of the nation’s households were asset poor in 1999.
Interestingly enough, the current meltdown of normal investments (stocks, bonds, mutual funds) is having a major impact on the wealthy and the extremely rich. I expect the growth to reverse itself over the next 2 years and then rapidly accelerate. There are just so many opportunities for Americans to achieve financial success. A new era is upon us.