Building on previous work by the Congressional Budget Office, this report examines changes in the distribution of family wealth (a family’s assets minus its debts) from 1989 to 2019 and analyzes those changes in relation to several family characteristics—income, education, and race. and ethnicity, age, and birth cohort. Additionally, the report examines how total family wealth has changed since 2019.
- Common wealth. Total real wealth (that is, wealth adjusted for inflation) of households in the United States tripled from 1989 to 2019—to $38 trillion in 2019 (about four times the nation’s gross domestic product, or GDP). 115 trillion dollars (about five times GDP).
- Concentration of wealth. Growth in real wealth has been uneven over the past three decades: household wealth has increased more in the top half of the distribution than in the bottom half. Families in the top 10 percent and 1 percent of the distribution, in particular, saw their share of total wealth increase during this period. In 2019, families in the top 10 percent of the distribution owned 72 percent of the total wealth, and families in the top 1 percent of the distribution owned more than a third; families in the bottom half of the distribution held only 2 percent of total wealth.
- Trends in family characteristics. Over a 30-year period, the average wealth of higher-income families, more educated families, and older families grew faster than that of lower-income families, less educated families, and younger families. The average wealth of white families significantly exceeded that of families in other racial and ethnic groups during this period. The average wealth of each birth cohort since 1950 has been less than the average wealth of the previous cohort at the same age.
- Trends since 2019. In the first quarter of 2020, total family wealth declined as a result of the disruption to economic activity caused by the coronavirus pandemic. By the end of the second quarter of 2020, the family’s overall wealth was restored; it continued to grow in the fourth quarter of 2021, but declined slightly in the first quarter of 2022.