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U.S. Wealth Distribution Data (1998)

(Data from The State of Working America 2000/2001)

Wealth distribution in the U.S. is extremely concentrated, much more so than income. These statistics, on the other hand, only hint at the L-Curve phenomenon because the top 1% isn't scrutinized in sufficient detail. Still, compare the net worth of the top half of the top 1% with the bottom half of the top 1%! If you add them together and proportion them out, 3/4 of the wealth in the top 1% is actually in the top 0.5%.

The top and bottom halves of the top 0.5% would undoubtedly show even greater disparity if the data were presented with enough resolution. Note that nothing on this page even mentions billionaires. The largest fortunes are in the $100-billion range. The statistics on billionaires are diluted by lumping them in with mere millionaires.

  • Household distribution of net worth (1998), i.e. total value of assets:

    Percent of owners Net worth Cumulative Percent Cumulative net worth
    Top 0.5% 25.6% Top 0.5% 25.6%
    Next 0.5% 8.4% Top 1% 34.0%
    Next 4% 23.4% Top 5% 57.4%
    Next 5% 11.4% Top 10% 68.8%
    Next 10% 12.8% Top 20% 81.6%
    Last 80% 18.5% All 100% 100%


  • Average household wealth by wealth class (in 1998 dollars): (Remember that $100-billion is 10,000 times greater than the average wealth of the top 1%.)

    Wealth class Average wealth of class
    Top 1% $10,203,700
    Next 4% $1,441,200
    Next 5% $623,500
    Next 10% $344,900
    Next 20% $161,300
    Next 20% $61,000
    Next 20% $11,000
    Last 20% -$8,900

  • Household distribution of common stocks in 1998 (i.e. who "owns" the corporations). These statistics include indirect ownership through mutual funds, 401k plans, etc.

    Percent of owners Net stocks Cumulative Percent Cumulative stocks
    Top 0.5% 37.0% Top 0.5% 37.0%
    Next 0.5% 10.7% Top 1% 47.7%
    Next 4% 27.2% Top 5% 74.9%
    Next 5% 11.3% Top 10% 86.2%
    Next 10% 9.8% Top 20% 96%
    Last 80% 4.1% All 100% 100%