The nation’s aggregate wealth continued to show signs of recovery, ascending to $81.5 trillion as of June 30, after bottoming out at $55 trillion in 2009, according to a new Federal Reserve report released Thursday.
But as other economic reports and indicators suggest, that wealth recovery has been concentrated on the wealthiest Americans. Although there is some evidence that those at the bottom are also seeing an economic lift, the aggregate net worth for America’s economic middle is actually declining. In August, the Census Bureau released detailed wealth tabulations that imply that the minimum wealth level needed to qualify for the wealthiest 1% of American households increased from $2.3 million in 2009 to $2.4 million in 2011. That in itself indicates there were wealth gains at the very top of the wealth distribution. On the other hand, the minimum wealth level needed to be in the wealthiest 4% of households fell from 2009 to 2011, from which one infers that wealth declined for households at the wealthiest 4% level.
The Census figures also indicate that there were small gains in wealth among the nation’s least wealthy households—the bottom 30% (in 2011 households with a net worth of $7,500 or less). But for the broad middle up to the most wealthy 4% of American households, wealth declined from 2009 to 2011.