The 50 richest Americans now hold almost as much wealth as half of the U.S., as Covid-19 transforms the economy in ways that have disproportionately rewarded a small class of billionaires. Bloomberg reports:
New data from the U.S. Federal Reserve, a comprehensive look at U.S. wealth through the first half of 2020, show stark disparities by race, age and class. While the top 1% of Americans have a combined net worth of $34.2 trillion, the poorest 50% — about 165 million people — hold just $2.08 trillion, or 1.9% of all household wealth.
The 50 richest people in the country, meanwhile, are worth almost $2 trillion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, up $339 billion from the beginning of 2020.
Covid-19 has exacerbated inequality in the U.S., with job losses falling heavily on low-wage service workers and the virus disproportionately infecting and killing people of color. Meanwhile, many upper-middle class professionals are working from home, watching their retirement accounts rise in value after the U.S. Treasury and Fed pumped stimulus into the economy and markets.
Another key reason for the wealth disparity is that the vast majority of Americans aren’t benefiting from rising stock prices. The bottom 90%’s exposure to the stock market has been dropping for almost two decades. Since peaking at 21.4% in 2002, upper middle class Americans have seen a 10 percentage point decline in their equity interest in companies. A similar pattern is seen among the bottom half.