Just how rich are the super-rich? Apparently a lot of them are too rich to bother responding to surveys asking them how rich they are, and economist Philip Vermeulen believes that has led to their wealth being underestimated. In a new analysis, the senior European Central Bank economist estimates that the richest 1% of Americans control 35% to 37% of the country's wealth instead of the 30% that is usually cited, CBS reports. His analysis, which included data from Forbes' billionaire list, looked at nine other countries and found that the assets of the richest people there were also underestimated, though it was the US where the 1% had the biggest slice of the pie.
The richest 1% now take nearly a fifth of US income, the highest proportion on record, and economists say the trend is likely to continue as long as the rate of return on assets like real estate outpaces income growth. Vermeulen's findings are important, writes Mark Gilbert at Bloomberg, because while the fortunes of the richest may not "prevent those lower down from amassing their own wealth," it matters for equality of opportunity. "However ineffective governments have been at nudging educational structures to improve access to self-economic improvement, those efforts at social engineering should at least be based on correct data," he writes.