Inequality in America

Wealth Inequality

‘Wealth’ refers to total net worth or total assets, including financial assets (such as cash, stocks, etc.) and other assets (such as house).  Wealth is different from ‘income’ which is the annual amount of money earned in a year.  Most of the wealth calculations are based on ‘households’, and average household sizes are 3 people.

Most of the facts are from: Edward N. Wolff, “Recent Trends in Wealth Ownership, 1983-1998,” April 2000. Table 2. (Courtesy, United For a Fair Economy)


Share of national wealth by percentage of population. – Edward N. Wolff, “Recent Trends in Wealth Ownership, 1983-1998,” April 2000 (Original graph by Devesh Kumar)


Top Facts

The top 1% of Americans own as much wealth as the bottom 95% percent.

Source: Edward N. Wolff, “Recent Trends in Wealth Ownership, 1983-1998,” April 2000.

The total wealth owned by the top 1% of Americans is equivalent to 200 times the total combined wealth of the bottom 40%.   (Or, the top 1% owns 200 times the wealth of the bottom 40%

The total  wealth of the top 60% of Americans is 500 times the total wealth of the bottom 40%.

Bill Gates, America’s richest individual, alone has more wealth than 40% of the U.S. population combined, or 120 million people.

The top 1% of households own almost 40% of the nation’s wealth.
The top 10% of Americans own over 70% of nation’s wealth.
The top 20% of the nation’s households own 85% of the nation’s total wealth.
The top 60% of households own almost 100%, or 99.8%, of the nation’s wealth.

The bottom 40% of households own one-fifth of 1% (or 0.2%) of the nation’s wealth.

The bottom 80% of Americans own only 15% of the nation’s wealth.

Other Facts

The total wealth owned by the top 1% of Americans is equivalent to 200 times the total combined wealth of the bottom 40%.   (Or, the top 1% owns 200 times the wealth of the bottom 40%

The total  wealth of the top 60% of Americans is 500 times the total wealth of the bottom 40%.

The total wealth of the top 40% of Americans is 475 times the total wealth of the bottom 40%.

The total wealth of the top 40% of Americans is 20 times the total wealth of the bottom 60%.

Source: Edward N. Wolff, “Recent Trends in Wealth Ownership, 1983-1998,” April 2000. Table 2. (Courtesy, United For a Fair Economy)

Percentage of nation’s wealth owned by:

Top Sectors % of nation’s wealth Bottom Sectors % of nation’s wealth
Top 1% 40% Bottom 40% 0.2%
Top 4% 60% Bottom 80% 15%
Top 10% 75% Bottom 90% 25%
Top 20% 85% Bottom 96% 40%
Top 60% 99.8% Bottom 99% 60%

The top 1% of households own almost 40% of the nation’s wealth.
The top 4% of Americans own 60% of the nation’s wealth.
The top 10% of Americans own over 70% of nation’s wealth.
The top 20% of the nation’s households own 85% of the nation’s total wealth.
The top 40% of households own 95% of the nation’s total wealth.
The top 60% of households own almost 100%, or 99.8%, of the nation’s wealth.
(Wolff, 2000)

The bottom 40% of households own one-fifth of 1% (or 0.2%) of the nation’s wealth.
The bottom 60% of Americans own only 5% of the nation’s wealth.
The bottom 80% of Americans own only 15% of the nation’s wealth.
The bottom 99% of Americans own 60% of the nation’s wealth.
The total wealth in America totals $27 trillion dollars.
(Wolff, 2000)

The top 1% of Americans could live for an average of 555 years at basic living standards (defined as 125% of the national poverty line of $13,000 per household per year).

Average household wealth for all Americans is $270,000.

The average wealth of the top 1% of Americans is $10 million ($10,000,000).

The average wealth of the bottom 40% of Americans $1,000.

Wealth Trends

In the fifteen years between 1983 and 1998, the bottom 40% of Americans saw their wealth drop 76%.  (In other words, they lost three-quarters of their wealth in 15 years).

In the same time period, the richest 1% saw their wealth increase by 42%.

The richest 40%, excluding the richest 1%, saw their wealth increase roughly 20%.

Income Inequality

‘Income’ means annual earnings or increase in wealth (for example, the increase in the value of stocks) over a one year’s period.  This is different from ‘wealth’, which is the total cumulative assets or net worth.

Top Facts

The richest 1% of Americans earned as much income (after taxes) in 1999 as the bottom 38%.  (In other words, the 2.7 million Americans with the highest incomes will have as much after-tax income as the 100 million Americans with the lowest incomes.)

The total income earned by the top 20% of Americans equalled the total income earned by the bottom 80%.  (Or, the top 20% of Americans earned as much total income as the bottom 80%). (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000-01)

Trends in Income

The Rich and Super-Rich

In 1999, there were 268 billionaires.

Bill Gates, America’s richest individual, alone has more wealth than 40% of the U.S. population combined, or 120 million people.  (Bill Gates net worth is approximately $50 billion.  The total wealth of the bottom 40% of Americans is $40 billion.)

Poverty

In 1999, there were 35 million people (or, approximately 12% of the population) living below the poverty line ($13,000 income per year for a 3 person family)
(Divided Decade: Economic Disparity at the Century’s Turn, United for a Fair Economy)

Poverty Rate in America, 1996: 13.7%

Poverty rates in America by Race, 1996:
White: 11.2%
Black: 28.5%
Hispanic:  29.4%

Poverty rates in America by location of residence:
Central Cities: 19.6%
Suburban: 9.4%
Rural: 15.9%

 

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