Poor gaining wealth but U.S. 'increasingly unequal,' Fed says

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Sep 28 2017 06:02 AM

The concentration of wealth and income among the richest one percent of American families reached "historically high" levels last year, the U.S. central bank said Wednesday.

Although the fastest gains in income have gone to non-white and Hispanic families, as the US economy continues to recover, their net worth remains far below whites, according a report by the Federal Reserve.

The findings come as President Donald Trump unveils plans for broad-based tax cuts, which opposition Democrats say would unduly benefit the richest Americans, widening the gap.

The survey, conducted every three years, shows most Americans are now richer than they were before the Great Recession of 2007-2009. Incomes rose 10 percent between 2013 and 2016, and the benefits of economic expansion are reaching most corners of American society. 

However, "The distribution of income and wealth has grown increasingly unequal in recent years," according to the survey, which queried nearly 6,300 Americans.

Disparities were stark. 

The median net worth of white households grew 17 percent to $171,000 in the latest three years.

But the net worth of African-American households is just $17,600, even though they experienced nearly twice the growth rate, or 29 percent, over the same period. 

Median net worth for Hispanic households grew at a brisk 46 percent but trail whites as well at just $20,700.

The top one percent of earners now account for nearly a quarter of all US income at 23.8 percent, almost as much as the next nine percent.

And the bottom 90 percent of earners now take in less than half all income at 49.7 percent.

The highest gains went to those without high school diplomas, whose saw their median incomes grow 15 percent. People with college degrees saw incomes rise only two percent.

Meanwhile, the wealthiest Americans compounded their advantages during the recovery. The richest one percent now own 38.6 percent of the wealth in private hands, up 2.3 percentage points from 2013.

These advances have come at the expense of the other 99 percent of Americans who have seen their share of US wealth decline since 2010, the report showed.

The bottom 90 percent have fallen steadily behind and now hold 22.8 percent of US wealth, down from 33.2 percent in 2013.