The results of this new Pew Research study on changing wealth in America shouldn’t be too surprising as it covers the time period from 2009 to 2011 when equity markets were rebounding from the 2008 financial crisis and the housing market was still struggling.
During the first two years of the nation’s economic recovery, the mean net worth of households in the upper 7% of the wealth distribution rose by an estimated 28%, while the mean net worth of households in the lower 93% dropped by 4%, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly released Census Bureau data.
From 2009 to 2011, the mean wealth of the 8 million households in the more affluent group rose to an estimated $3,173,895 from an estimated $2,476,244, while the mean wealth of the 111 million households in the less affluent group fell to an estimated $133,817 from an estimated $139,896.
These wide variances were driven by the fact that the stock and bond market rallied during the 2009 to 2011 period while the housing market remained flat.
Affluent households typically have their assets concentrated in stocks and other financial holdings, while less affluent households typically have their wealth more heavily concentrated in the value of their home.
They note that during the period they studied, U.S. stocks rose by 34 percent whereas home prices actually fell by 5 percent, meaning that, if home prices continue to rise, the lower 93 percent should see a pretty good boost to their net worth the next time around.
Nonetheless, the message remains the same. Paraphrasing Mel Brooks, “It’s good to be rich”.