1 percent now owns more than at any time in the past 50 years

Wealth in the United States is commonly measured in terms of net worth, which is the sum of all assets, including the market value of real estate, like a home, minus all liabilities. The United States is the wealthiest country in the world.

Sep 30, 2015 – The U.S.—with $63.5 trillion in total private wealth—holds the largest amount of any country in the world. But that wealth is unevenly distributed, and nowhere is that more evident than in the U.S., which also has the largest wealth inequality gap of 55 countries studied, according to the report.

America’s Total Net Worth Just Hit a Record High. U.S. households saw their total net worth rise to a record level of $84.9 trillion in the first quarter of this year, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday. That’s compared to $80.3 trillion a year ago.Jun 12, 2015

Now you need an an average of $2.4 million to be considered a wealthy person in America, according to the survey by Charles Schwab, which surveyed Americans aged 21 to 75. … Only about 10% of Americans are worth $1 million or more, according to a 2017 report by investor research firm Spectrem Group.Jun 21, 2017

The financial position of the United States includes assets of at least $269.6 trillion (1576% of GDP) and debts of $145.8 trillion (852% of GDP) to produce a net worth of at least $123.8 trillion (723% of GDP) as of Q1 2014. The U.S. increased the ratio of public and private debt from 152% GDP in 1980 to peak at 296% GDP …

The wealthiest 1 percent of American households own 40 percent of the country’s wealth, according to a new paper by economist Edward N. Wolff. That share is higher than it has been at any point since at least 1962, according to Wolff’s data, which comes from the federal Survey of Consumer Finances.
From 2013, the share of wealth owned by the 1 percent shot up by nearly three percentage points. Wealth owned by the bottom 90 percent, meanwhile, fell over the same period. Today, the top 1 percent of households own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined. 

In the United States, the distribution of that wealth is even more skewed toward the top than the distribution of income. For the sake of illustration, let’s say that America is a country of 100 people, and all of the wealth in the country — the homes and land and financial assets — is represented by 100 slices of pie.

That works out to an average of one slice of pie per person, which is exactly what everyone would get if we lived in a society where wealth was equally distributed.
But that’s not the society we live in, and indeed that’s not the society that most of us want to live in either. People generally agree that if you work harder you’re entitled to more of the pie, and that if you don’t work at all, well, barring certain circumstances, no pie for you.
In 2010, Michael Norton and Dan Ariely surveyed more than 5,500 people to find out how they thought wealth should be distributed in this country: How much of the pie should go to the top 20 percent of Americans, and to the next 20 percent, and so on, all the way down to the bottom of the distribution?

On average, respondents said that in an ideal world the top 20 percent of Americans would get nearly one-third of the pie, the second and middle quintiles would get about 20 percent each, and the bottom two quintiles would get 13 and 11 slices, respectively.

In an ideal world, in other words, the most productive quintile of society would amass roughly three times the wealth of the least productive.
Now, let’s take a look at how the pie is actually distributed. These figures come from Wolff’s working paper, and he expands on them further in his new book, “A Century of Wealth in America.”

The top 20 percent of households actually own a whopping 90 percent of the stuff in America — 90 slices of pie! That’s exactly 4½ slices per person, nearly triple their “ideal” share according to Norton and Ariely’s survey respondents. Their average net worth? $3 million.
That leaves just 10 percent of the pie for the remaining 80 percent of the populace. The next 20 percent of households (average net worth: $273,600) help themselves to eight slices, while the middle 20 percent ($81,700 net worth, on average) split a measly two slices.
Don’t go feeling too sorry for that middle quintile, though — at least they get some pie. The fourth quintile of households gets literally nothing: no pie. But they’re still doing better than the bottom 20 percent of households, who are actually in a state of pie debt: Their net worth is underwater, meaning they owe more than they have.

Combined, the average net worth of the bottom 40 percent of households is -$8,900.

The American 1 percent gobble up twice as much pie (40 percent) as the 1 percent in France, the U.K., or Canada, and more than three times as much as the 1 percent in Finland.


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