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Wealth Inequality Grows, With 10% Owning 89% of Stocks

Gap has increased during the pandemic, helped by the market
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2021 7:05 PM CDT
Richest 10% Now Own 89% of US Stocks, a Record
More stocks are owned by fewer people than ever, according to Federal Reserve data.   (Getty)

(Newser) – Stock ownership is more concentrated than ever, Federal Reserve data show, with the wealthiest 10% of households owning 89% of US stocks. The stocks differential is reflected in the growing wealth inequity, CNBC reports, with 1% of Americans holding 32% of wealth, also a record. "The top 1% own a lot of stock, the rest of us own a little," said Steven Rosenthal of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. During the pandemic, the 1% added more than $6.5 trillion in corporate equities and mutual fund wealth, and while the bottom 90% picked up $1.2 trillion.

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Concentration increased despite the fact that more people own stock now. Robinhood, for example, has posted more than 10 million new accounts over the past two years. But the new accounts, often held by younger investors, are small, averaging about $4,500 at Robinhood. So when the market goes up, those accounts profit much less than those of wealthy investors with many shares. "Many of the younger investors also bought in at higher prices, compared to bigger investors who have been in the market for years and see larger gains," Rosenthal said.

The wealth inequality is clear across the board. The richest 10% also own 45% of US real estate, 54% of pension entitlements, 85% of private businesses, and 34% of consumer durable goods, per the Street. The stock market is behind most of the wealth creation and increased inequality during the pandemic; it's risen almost 40% since January 2020. Stocks accounted for almost 70% of the gains in wealth by the nation's richest 1% over the past year and a half, per CNBC. (Read more stocks stories.)

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