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Q: wealth in the US ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: wealth in the US
Category: Business and Money > Economics
Asked by: flaco-ga
List Price: $4.00
Posted: 19 Apr 2002 08:10 PDT
Expires: 26 Apr 2002 08:10 PDT
Question ID: 2050
Graph the current distribution of wealth in the United States.
Subject: Re: wealth in the US
Answered By: katwoman-ga on 19 Apr 2002 13:03 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hi flaco,

Although I do not have the capability to create a graph for you, I can provide 
you with the information you're seeking and give you links to graphs.

Here is a summary of the statistics for the distribution of wealth in the US as 
of 1998, the most recent information available that has been fully analyzed:

% of US Population 			% of Wealth Owned
Top 1%					        38.1%
Top 96-99%					21.3%
Top 90-95%					11.5%
Top 80-89%					12.5%
Top 60-79%					11.9%
General 40-59%				         4.5%
Bottom 40%					 0.2%

You can find this illustrated in a graph at United for a Fair Economy (UFE):

You can also find additional graphs and charts on US income trends at the UFE 

These figures are based on research by New York University Economics Professor 
Edward N. Wolff.  In his April 2000 working paper titled "Recent Trends in 
Wealth Ownership, 1983-1998", Wolff used statistics from the Surveys of 
Consumer Finances to address several issues surrounding the concentration of 
wealth in America.

Working Paper No. 300

According to Wolff's figures, about 70 percent of the wealth in the US is in 
the hands of 10 percent of population.  He also notes that the disparity 
between the distribution of wealth rose from 1989 to 1998, although the pace of 
the inequity was slower in the 1990s. 

In addition to the Surveys of Consumer Finances, there are two other major 
sources of data on American wealth:

The U.S. Bureau of the Census Survey of Income and Program Participation 

The Institute for Social Research's Panel Survey of Income Dynamics (PSID):

The data and methodology for each of these sources varies.  As a result, the 
distribution statistics produced by each of these sources may also vary.  

For the purposes of his analysis, Wolff defined wealth as "marketable wealth" 
or "net worth," meaning the current value of all marketable assets (real 
estate, cash, savings, bonds, stocks, pension plans, trust funds, etc.) minus 
the current value of debts. He excluded durable goods like automobiles and 
house wares and social security benefits from his definition of marketable 

While researching your question I found other graphs that detail the 
disparities in income.  It's important to remember that although wealth and 
income are strongly correlated, they are different. More factors are taken into 
consideration when calculating wealth and as a result, it is probably a more 
accurate indicator of how money is distributed in the US.

Here are some additional resources on wealth and income:

US Census Bureau 
1999 report on the wealth of US families

US Census Bureau -- Census 2000
Detailed table on income and poverty statistics
Additional statistics on households and families arranged by state

Understanding the US Distribution of Wealth
Comprehensive report based on 1997 data

Century Foundation
Graphs and analysis based on 1998 US Census data

Review of Income and Wealth

Survey of Consumer Finances
Comprehensive survey on consumer income, assets, debt, and major transactions

Unequal Income Distribution in the United States
This is based on 1995 and 1996 data. Scroll down to the bottom for information 
on distribution by country

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
IRS data on after-tax income trends

The L-Curve By David Chandler
Based on 1997 data income. Includes easy-to-understand graphs on income 

Online Dictionary of the Social Sciences
A definition of the L-Curve

Online Dictionary of the Social Sciences
A definition of the Gini Coefficient

If you are looking for a geographical breakdown of the distribution of wealth 
in the US, here are some additional links:

US Census Bureau
An analysis of income, poverty and benefits based on results from the 1990 

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
A January 2000 state-by-state analysis of income trends.  Based on data from 
1978 to 1988
Search for the world's richest people and click on the map for more information

I used the following search terms on Google:

distribution of wealth in us
wealth and distribution and us 
distribution of wealth and us and 1998 and stat or statistic or statistics
gini coefficient

Hope this helps,
flaco-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Great result that helped in an argument ;)
For user design, I didn't notice the rate result button - I was concentrating on
reading the results and missed it. I would use google answers in the future if I
needed a good summary of info and didn't have time to assemble the results myself.

Subject: Re: wealth in the US
From: red_rover-ga on 15 Feb 2005 12:07 PST
Brilliant answer, thank you.

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