How the US wealth landscape is changing for rich and poor

In the US in 1989 the typical top 1-percenter had wealth 300 times that of the typical bottom 50-percenter. Over the following three decades that ratio rose more than four-fold to exceed 1300.

I calculated this from Distributional Financial Accounts just published by the US Federal Reserve Board of Governors. There are many interesting things one might say about the fascinating numbers in that publication, but I used them to calculate (using calendar year-moving averages):

Wealth in current US$tnTop 1%Bottom 50%

and then derived from these my headline opening assertion.

Readers sensibly have different reactions to what’s happening with wealth inequality, and those alternative responses can be tricky to disentangle from indirect research. So I’m curious: How strongly do you agree with each of the following statements (on a scale of -2 to +2, in increasing agreement so -2 is where you disagree strongly, 2 when you agree strongly; 0 is when you neither agree nor disagree):

[My calculations differ from, say, Matt Bruenig’s, in that I don’t adjust for different kinds of wealth; also, I’m doing calculations comparing magnitudes for the same year, so I did not need to adjust for price level variation. Beyond wanting to take the data as they come — so that others find these calculations easier to reproduce for themselves — I also preferred not to allow for the possibility of negative wealth as they then make ratios harder to interpret.]

(This graph is from Bruening, Matt. 2019. Top 1% Up $21 Trillion. Bottom 50% Down $900 Billion. People’s Policy Project (14 Jun).)

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