April 12, 2024

Over the last 30, that is 30 years years, America’s richest families have gotten even richer, while everyone else still hasn’t recovered from the Great Recession.
US families in the top 10% of the wealth distribution added about $60 trillion to their wealth from 1989 to 2019, while the bottom half of Americans added just under $1 trillion to their total wealth during the same time.
That’s according to a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which assesses how family wealth has changed from 1989 to 2019. The report, requested by Sen. Bernie Sanders, shows just how uneven wealth distribution is in the US — and how the rich have only gotten richer.
“The increase in wealth over the 30-year period was unevenly distributed and concentrated near the top of the distribution,” the report said. “The total wealth held by families in the top 10 percent increased at a faster rate than wealth held by families in the rest of the distribution.”
While Americans at the top have seen their fortunes grow tremendously over the last several decades, families in the middle haven’t been able to build wealth as easily as in the past. Research has found that, from 1943 to 1973, it would take the typical American family around 23 years to double their wealth; but, since 1973, it now takes over 100 years.
Meanwhile, an inequality study analyzing 20 years of wealth data found a similar worldwide disparity in wealth, finding that the top half of the world holds about 98% of the globe’s wealth. That comes after a study of 50 years of tax cuts for the wealthy found that the wealth did not “trickle down,” but instead worsened inequality.
CBO measures wealth as a family’s holdings of a variety of financial assets. The disparities in the distributions of those assets was only heightened by the Great Recession, with the 25th and 50th percentile of American families still not seeing wealth rebound from pre-recession levels by 2019. At the same time, the 90th percentile saw their wealth not only recover but grow since 2007.
Indeed, in 1989 the families in the top 10% held 63% of wealth. That ballooned: In 2019, they held 72% of wealth. Broken down even more, the top 1% now holds about a third of all wealth — up from a little less than a quarter in 1989.
“The obscene level of income and wealth inequality in America is a profoundly moral issue that we cannot continue to ignore or sweep under the rug,” Sanders said in a statement on the report. “A society cannot sustain itself when so few have so much while so many have so little. In the richest country on Earth, the time is long overdue for us to create a government and an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.”
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