Some Thoughts On US Wealth Patterns

The pattern for the 50th-90th percentile is where the big shift happens. This group had about of total wealth in 1990 and still had about that same share in the early 2000s. But since then, its share has dropped down to about 29% of total wealth. In ownership of real estate or financial assets, this group is benefitting considerably less from the run-up in wealth/GDP than the top 1%. This group is often what is called the "middle class" in a US context. 

The bottom 50% has relatively little wealth, which isn't a surprise. After all, lots of fairly middle-class people under the age of 35-40 don't have much total wealth, in part because what they are in debt to buy a house, and there hasn't been enough time for their housing equity and retirement accounts to build up. The poor don't have much wealth, either. Thus, it's not a big surprise that back in the 1990s the total share of the wealth distribution for this group was around 3.5-4.0% of the total. But since the 2000s, the wealth gains of this group didn't keep up--indeed, one suspects that this group includes a number of people who borrowed heavily to buy a house in the early 2000s and then, after real estate prices fell, ended up having borrowed more than the property was worth. 

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