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Want to Know Where the Economy Is Going? Watch The Top 10%

Want to Know Where the Economy Is Going? Watch The Top 10%

Should the wealth effect reverse as assets fall, capital gains evaporate and investment income declines, the top 10% will no longer have the means or appetite to spend so freely.

Soaring wealth-income inequality has all sorts of consequences. As many (including me) have noted, the concentration of wealth and income in the top 0.1% has enabled the few to buy political influence to protect their interests at the expense of the many and the common good.

In other words, extreme wealth-income inequality dismantles democracy. There is no way to sugarcoat this reality.

But the concentration of wealth and income isn’t limited to the top 0.1% or top 1%. The top 5% and top 10% have increased their share of household wealth and income, too, and this has far-reaching consequences for the economy, as the top 10% accounts for the bulk not just of income but of spending.

According to the Federal Reserve, ( Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S. since 1989), the top 1% owned 22.7% of all household wealth in 1989. Their share increased to 30.6% in 2022. The share of the 9% below the top 1% (90% to 99%) remained virtually unchanged at 37.4%. The top 10% own 68% of all household wealth.

But this doesn’t reflect the real concentration of income-producing assets, i.e. investments. Total household wealth includes the family home, the F-150 truck, the snowmobile, etc. What separates the economic classes isn’t their household possessions, it’s their ownership of assets that generate income and capital gains.

As the chart below shows, the top 10% own the vast majority of business equity, stocks/bonds and income-producing real estate, between 80% and 90% of each category.

This means the tremendous increases in asset valuations of the past two decades have flowed almost exclusively to the top 10%, with the important caveat that the vast majority of the gains in income and wealth have flowed to the top 0.1%, top 1% and top 5%.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

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