Study: America's Richest 7% Got Richer During Recovery

Rich Americans wealth Gap - Getty Images
Getty Images
By PAULINE JELINEK

WASHINGTON -- The richest Americans got richer during the first two years of the economic recovery while average net worth declined for the other 93 percent of U.S. households, says a report released Tuesday.

The upper 7 percent of households owned 63 percent of the nation's total household wealth in 2011, up from 56 percent in 2009, said the report from the Pew Research Center, which analyzed new Census Bureau data released last month.

The main reason for the widening wealth gap is that affluent households typically own stocks and other financial holdings that increased in value, while the less wealthy tend to have more of their assets in their homes, which haven't rebounded from the plunge in home values, the report said.


Tuesday's report is the latest to point up financial inequality that has been growing among Americans for decades, a development that helped fuel the Occupy Wall Street protests.

A September Census Bureau report on income found that the highest-earning 20 percent of households earned more than half of all income the previous year, the biggest share in records kept since 1967. A 2011 Congressional Budget Office report said incomes for the richest 1 percent soared 275 percent between 1979 and 2007 while increasing just under 40 percent for the middle 60 percent of Americans.

Other details of Tuesday's new report:
  • Overall, the wealth of American households rose by $5 trillion, or 14 percent, during the period to $40.2 trillion in 2011 from $35.2 trillion in 2009. Household wealth is the sum of all assets such as a home, car and stocks, minus the sum of all debts.
  • The average net worth of households in the upper 7 percent of the wealth distribution rose by an estimated 28 percent, while that of households in the lower 93 percent dropped by 4 percent. That is, the mean wealth of the 8 million households in the more affluent group rose to an estimated $3.2 million from an estimated $2.5 million while that of the 111 million households in the less affluent group fell to roughly $134,000 from $140,000.
  • The upper 7 percent were the households with a net worth above $836,033 and the 93 percent represented households whose worth was at or below that. Not all households among the 93 percent saw a decline in net worth, but the average amount declined for that group.
  • On an individual household basis, the average wealth of households in the more affluent group was almost 24 times that of those in the less affluent group in 2011. At the start of the recovery in 2009, that ratio was less than 18 to 1.
  • During the study period, Standard & Poor's 500 stock index rose by 34 percent, while the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index for home prices fell by 5 percent.

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52 Comments

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walk1111

NEWS ALERT being rich isn't bad, it's good. It's something every American has the opportunity to strive for.

April 24 2013 at 5:33 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

The money supply is drying up even as they pump QE's into it. Nothing is making it to the people hence all the poverty etc.

April 24 2013 at 3:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Iselin007's comment
walk1111

The money isn't printed to GIVE to the poor. It's printed for the Federal Reserve Bank to loan to banks. If banks find it worth their while, they will loan it to folk who in turn start businesses, etc. If the financial environment is bad, loans won't be made.

April 24 2013 at 5:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

Now you know why the economy can't recover. The majority is still hurting while the rich stack it away.

April 24 2013 at 3:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Iselin007's comment
walk1111

Unless you speak from experience, how do you know what wealthy folk do with their money?

April 24 2013 at 5:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
taylorndncar

What is it with these people, who complain about the "rich getting richer",...especially the news media? Who in USA does not work for rich-people? The owner of a small business is richer than his employees. The corporations who meet large expenditures and payrolls are wealthier than the thousands of employees, who work for them. And don't think the union bosses are starving and saving their pennies, living off the membership-dues of their members. If you gauge your life against those who have more than you,...you are in for a sad lifetime!!!

April 24 2013 at 12:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jeremiah

Another puff piece, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing! Oh, and, lest we forget --- today, like every other day, over 90 million LAW ABIDING AMERICAN GUN OWNERS, have murdered no one.

April 24 2013 at 12:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jbar5377

What a "dumb" article. There was a stock market crash in 2008-2009, after that, the market went up, and people who were invested, including the middle class with their retirement funds, made money with the bounce--- eventually they basically got back to even. So to say the richest 7% made money during the recovery, meaning they made back what they lost before the [fake] "recovery", is misleading to say the least-- it implies the rich did something wrong or some other nonsense. I didn't hear the liberals complaining when everybody lost about 40%, guess they were happy then.

April 23 2013 at 11:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
paddleman1928

makes sense-these people understand how to make real money-it stands to reason they would do well.

April 23 2013 at 11:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
fpzoccola

so what else is new?

April 23 2013 at 10:03 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
pattyhar

WHAT RECOVERY?!?!?!?

April 23 2013 at 9:56 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Joseph

What else is new? Really, this is news? They only way they are not gonna get richer is when the rest of us run out of money for them to steal

April 23 2013 at 8:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply