I keep having trouble getting my head around how wealth is distributed in America — or maybe just that I don’t seem to explain it well enough to other people. There’s an article, “Who Rules America: Wealth, Income, and Power“, that looks into the details. Most of the data is only up to 2007 but the suggestion is that things have gotten worse since the recession:

So far there are only tentative projections … there has been an “astounding” 36.1% drop in the wealth (marketable assets) of the median household since the peak of the housing bubble in 2007. By contrast, the wealth of the top 1% of households dropped by far less: just 11.1%. So as of April 2010, it looks like the wealth distribution is even more unequal than it was in 2007.

The following shows how wealth is distributed but it’s a little misleading if you don’t read the labels. The “pie” is all wealth but each slice represents a different percentage of households. For example, the big slice represents 1% of households (about 1.1 million) and all the other slices represent about 109 million households.


Another way of looking at similar data is this chart that summarizes a survey asking people how they think wealth is distributed and also how they think the ideal should be shaped. The top most bar represents how wealth is actually distributed. Note that the bottom 40% of households don’t even show up in the top most bar:

In case you are thinking this is normal, the article includes this information over time and things are only getting worse.