Indeed, according to numbers put together by researchers at the Federal Reserve, the top 10 percent of working-age households were the only ones who, adjusted for inflation, were richer on average in 2016 than they were in 2007. Everyone else, as you can see above, was somewhere between 17 to 35 percent poorer than they’d been almost a decade before.
So why hasn’t the recovery, which has seen housing prices rebound by 26 percent and stocks by 160 percent from their post-crisis lows, reached less exclusive income groups, too? Well, the question answers itself: Because they don’t own as many houses or stocks as they used to. Part of that, of course, is due to the fact that middle-class families were more likely to have lost their homes during the crash — that’s why their wealth fell further than anyone else’s in the years immediately after — but not as much as you might think. The bigger factor, the researchers found, is that tighter lending standards have made it harder for people to buy a home in the first place. Consider this: Between 2007 and 2016, homeownership fell 12 percentage points among the middle class, 9 percentage points of which was due to people who had never owned a home in the past never buying one during that time. The housing crash, in other words, turned more people into renters, so the housing comeback hasn’t helped nearly as many people as had been hurt.