Working Paper No. 407 | May 2004

Changes in Household Wealth in the 1980s and 1990s in the US

I find that despite slow growth in income over the 1990s, there have been marked improvements in the wealth position of average families. Both mean and median wealth grew briskly in the late 1990s. The inequality of net worth leveled off even though income inequality continued to rise over this period. Indebtedness also fell substantially during the late 1990s. However, the concentration of investment type assets generally remained as high in 2001 as during the previous two decades. The racial disparity in wealth holdings, after stabilizing during most of the 1990s, widened in the years between 1998 and 2001, and the wealth of Hispanics actually declined in real terms between 1998 and 2001. Wealth also shifted in relative terms away from young households (under age 45) toward elderly ones (age 65 and over).

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