American households grew wealthier between 2016 and 2019, according to the latest Survey of Consumer Finances released Monday by researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank. But long-running patterns of inequality remained in place, leaving households in the top of the distribution much better prepared to weather the coronavirus crisis recession this year.
The report confirms a steady decline in relative wealth over the last 30 years for the bottom 90% of the U.S. population (the orange and blue lines in the chart below), and an increase for the top 10% (yellow and green lines).
“Affluent families have ... held a growing share of the nation’s wealth — savings amassed overtime, rather than the money a family earns in a given year — over recent decades,” The New York Times’ Jeanna Smialek wrote Monday. “They retained that advantage through 2019. In 1989, the top 1 percent of wealth holders held about 30 percent of the nation’s net worth. That jumped to nearly 40 percent in 2016 and was little changed in the latest survey.”