This article was originally published by Demos.
The Federal Reserve released the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances on Thursday. The overall wealth distribution picture is grim and getting worse:
The top 10 percent of families own 75.3 percent of the nation's wealth. The bottom half of families own 1.1 percent of it. The families squished in between those two groups own 24.6 percent of the national wealth.
The present wealth distribution is more unequal than it was in 2010, the last year this survey was conducted. Specifically, the top 10 percent increased their share of the national wealth by 0.8 percentage points between 2010 and 2013. The bottom half and middle 40 percent saw their share of the national wealth fall by 0.1 and 0.7 percentage points respectively.
These wealth figures bring to mind a 1955 Red Scare era educational film, which presses at one point:
In order to have a proper appreciation of the American economic system, we must know how the national income is divided in America. In other words, we must examine the distribution of the great wealth produced through the operation of American capitalism.
Is the distribution widespread or is the wealth of America concentrated in the hands of the few, as the socialists and communists say?
Racial Wealth Gap
The overall distribution of wealth is troubling. So is the racial wealth distribution.
Here is mean family wealth broken down by race:
The mean white family has a net worth of $679,000. The mean hispanic family has a net worth of $112,000. The mean black family has a net worth of $95,000.
Here is median family wealth broken down by race:
The median white family has a net worth of $134,000. The median hispanic family has a net worth of $14,000. The median black family has a net worth of $11,000.
Whites hold an extremely disproportionate amount of the national wealth. Whites are also the largest racial group. Consequently, whites own almost all of the wealth in the nation:
White families hold 90 percent of the national wealth. Hispanic families hold 2.3 percent of the national wealth. Black families hold 2.6 percent of the national wealth. The remaining 5.1 percent of the national wealth is held by others (natives, Asians, Pacific Islanders, multi-racials, etc.).
With few exceptions, whites own America.
Just as wealth is heavily concentrated nationally, it is also heavily concentrated within racial groups, especially among whites.
The bottom 32.1 percent of white families have an average net worth of $0.
Here is the distributive breakdown of white wealth among whites:
The top 10 percent of white families own 72.3 percent of all white wealth. The bottom half of white families own 2.2 percent of all white wealth. The remaining white families (those in the 50th to 90th percentiles) own the remaining 25.5 percent of white wealth.
This means that the top 10 percent of white families own 65.1 percent of all the wealth in the nation. The bottom half of white families own just 2 percent of the national wealth. And the white families in the 50th-90th percentile of white families own 22.9 percent of the national wealth.
All white families have more wealth than their non-white counterparts, but it is really the upper half of whites—and especially the top 10 percent of whites—who own nearly everything.