Net Wealth Distribution: The Bottom 50% Have 1% of the Wealth


Those in the bottom half have nothing. The top 10% have 70% of the wealth.

Between the second quarter of 2010 and the second quarter of 2012, the bottom 50 had negative combined net wealth.

Here is the same chart in dollar terms.


Someone posted a similar chart on Twitter with the comment "this is unfathomable".


Many people have no savings and close to half the population (48%) own no stocks.

Please consider What Percent Of Americans Own Stocks?

As of 2019, the top 10 percent of Americans owned an average of $969,000 in stocks. The next 40 percent owned $132,000 on average. For the bottom half of families, it was just under $54,000. Stock ownership has fallen to only around 52% overall since the financial crisis.

It's easy to believe that those in the 40-50% range have nearly all of that $54,000 average. Then what about debt? How much mortgage debt does the bottom half have?

At the lower rungs, the balance sheet consists of nothing but credit card debt and auto loans.

Well over half the population is not prepared for retirement.

Fed Spotlight

Janet Yellen used to moan all the time about wealth inequality.

Ironically, the Fed is a sponsor of this setup.

Asset inflation does not benefit those with no assets. And inflation kills those on fixed incomes as well as those seeking to buy a home but can never afford one.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (59)
No. 1-16

What is the population basis for these statistics? If these statistics are based on the ENTIRE US population, then the problem is nowhere as bad as they show. 38% of the Us population is under age 30 (US Census 2017). Children and young adults normally don't have significant financial assets. Even if it is all adults only, most don't show significant assets until middle age after student loans and mortgages are being paid off.

The real question is what is the financial situation for adults entering retirement, including the value of defined benefit retirement plans? That makes a huge difference in the amount of wealth one has to save before retirement. Does the 50% unprepared figure you stated include retirees who have generous pensions (like government workers) who have no need to build up large financial reserves?


The Fed's market manipulation policies obviously helped those closest to the Fed more than the rest of the population.

But the failed US education system is the reason the bottom 50% didn't benefit at all. Dozens of studies have shown US high school alleged graduates cannot (are not able to) do simple math, cannot balance a checkbook, cannot read and write at a middle school level. Students are so bad at solving "word problems" that the category was dropped from evaluation in recent years.

Schools in the US are about creating and protecting jobs for public unions. Teachers aren't very well paid, but administrators sure as $%(# are paid mad money. Janitors in schools get so much overtime one has to wonder when or if they sleep (they clock in for a lot of overtime, whether they work while clocked in is a different matter).

Poorly educated, or mis-educated persons are going to have low skills, and low earnings potential for life. Simple as that. Increasing welfare will not address a failed education system


"And inflation kills those on fixed incomes as well as those seeking to buy a home but can never afford one."

Hi Mish - I always thought inflation was the friend of the indebted. If I buy a house in 2020 for $300,000 with an $250,000 fixed-rate 30-year-mortgage and we had hit a bout of strong inflation for 10 years (e.g. 5%), then my salary will need to rise to cover the increases in inflation (granted an assumption, but it is basically what happened to my dad in the 1970s), then the mortgage payment stays the same, but is far less onerous.


Watched from Europe, it has been amazing how consumption debt was pushed from the 1960s onwards as a good thing.


Someone please explain to me how pension funds are meant to pay pensions when all they can buy a bonds yielding negative rates?