October 24, 2011
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The OccupyWallStreet movement has succeed in forcing the media to acknowledge the extent and seriousness of income inequality. In many ways wealth inequality is a bigger problem since it is wealth that largely underpins income and power differences. According to an Economic Policy Institute posting,
the richest 5 percent of households obtained roughly 82 percent of all the nation’s gains in wealth between 1983 and 2009. The bottom 60 percent of households actually had less wealth in 2009 than in 1983, meaning they did not participate at all in the growth of wealth over this period.
It is worth dividing the top 5% into what has now become two familiar groups, the top 1% and the next 4%. As the chart below shows, the top 1% of households captured 40% of all the growth in wealth over the period 1983 to 2009. The next 4% gained 41.5%.
Putting these trends into dollars, households in the top 1% gained an average of $4.5 million in wealth and households in the next 4% gained an average of $1.2 million over the period. It is worth restating that those are just their gains. How does your existing wealth stack up against their gains?