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wealth gains
Last week, I wrote about the recent collapse of median household wealth and the gaps, or maybe chasms, between races when it comes to wealth. Well, here's another chasm. This EPI graph represents the breakdown of who got the wealth accumulated in the United States between 1983 and 2009. Lawrence Mishel writes:
All of the gains in wealth accrued to the upper fifth, with 40.2 percent of the gains going to the upper 1 percent and 41.5 percent going to the next wealthiest 4 percent of households. This translated to gains of $4.5 million per household in the richest 1 percent and a gain of roughly $1.2 million per household in the next richest 4 percent of households.

In other words, the richest 5 percent of households obtained roughly 82 percent of all the nation’s gains in wealth between 1983 and 2009. The bottom 60 percent of households actually had less wealth in 2009 than in 1983, meaning they did not participate at all in the growth of wealth over this period.

To emphasize, this isn't a measure of what people had in 1983, at the start of the period the graph represents. It says, if you were in the top 5 percent in 1983, how much of the wealth that the country gained went to you? And the answer to that is almost all of it.

As we know, 2009 was an especially bad year, with median household wealth having declined from its 2005 point due to the housing collapse and other factors. But it wasn't bad enough to account for the massive growth of inequality in this graph—that has been the work of a generation and more.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Sep 20, 2011 at 06:50 AM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  That Wealth wasn't Lost; It was Stolen. (9+ / 0-)

    Notice: This Comment © 2011 ROGNM

    by ROGNM on Tue Sep 20, 2011 at 06:54:00 AM PDT

  •  This is what Reagan (6+ / 0-)

    created and Bush brought to its highest level.

    The American people must wise up and rise up!

    by TomP on Tue Sep 20, 2011 at 06:55:02 AM PDT

  •  have any studies been done on upward (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tracker

    mobility over that period of time?

    Specifically, if someone was in the top 5% in 2009, what were the chances he/she was in the top 5% in 1983 (or his/her parents)?

  •  i hate these graphs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MGross, agent

    because they are not longitudinal. They do not track people over time.

    In 1983 i was a high school graduate will 0 net worth. Over the next 26 years i've gottena jon, bought 2 houses and built up pension/401-K saving.

    So do i help drive up that value in the lower fifth?

    No. They move me to another category for the 2009 results.

    Likewise if a person in the top fifth got ruined in the stock market, does he hurt that category? No, again he get re-classified to a lower group and replaced with some other sucessful person.

    Unless you keep the people in the same category in both time periods, you cannot see how the groups are doing. I was replaced in the lower fifth by some other high school kid with no net wealth, so the lower fifth never goes up since all the sucessful people are shifted to other groups.

    If you looked at all 18 year old in 1983 and then looked at all 44 year olds in 2009, you would see that they've had huge gains in wealth.

    19 year olds, same thing.
    20 year olds, same thing.

    probably true until you get to the 50 year olds and beyond who've often stopped working and are living off savings.

    •  I don't understand that. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tardis10, DaleA

      It's a measure of disparity of wealth.   It's not better, to use your examples, that there's movement betweeen the categories.  It's not better that x people go from being dirt poor and super rich, and x plus y go from being super rich to dirt poor.

      Inland: A privately held corporation spun off from the Womb Division of MomCo a half century or so ago.

      by Inland on Tue Sep 20, 2011 at 07:21:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  i think the chart leaves a false impression (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        agent

        that almost no one is doing better over time when in fact  most of us are. Every year new adults enter the measurement at the bottom so of course the bottom fifth never shows any improvement.

        •  The bottom is always at the bottom. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DaleA

          But the "most" is getting smaller, as is the "better".  

          It's not like we've had a huge jump of people entering the workforce just to count them as no wealth.  

          Inland: A privately held corporation spun off from the Womb Division of MomCo a half century or so ago.

          by Inland on Tue Sep 20, 2011 at 09:35:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  We can't know that from this (0+ / 0-)

            analysis.

            The way to see how people are doing over time in the country is to take an age cohort and then track them over time.

            The usual number of people entering the workforce i expect. They move into the bottom fifth and those people mostly move up the ladder. Thus the average for the group seems static while most people are moving upwards.

            •  But the the numbers aren't static. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              DaleA

              Your attempt to suggest that it's demographics is wrong.   There's nothing happening demographically that explains it.  

              Inland: A privately held corporation spun off from the Womb Division of MomCo a half century or so ago.

              by Inland on Tue Sep 20, 2011 at 09:52:11 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  yes there is (0+ / 0-)

                new workers entering the workforce every year with no net worth.

                Over time i don't expect new workers to be wealthier than yesterdays new workers were.

                •  Right. Every year. (0+ / 0-)

                  That's why it makes sense to NOT follow an age cohort, but to take the snapshot every year.  Every year new workers start with zip.  We can assume it's about the same every year.  So the growth of disparity is not due to incoming workers.

                  Inland: A privately held corporation spun off from the Womb Division of MomCo a half century or so ago.

                  by Inland on Tue Sep 20, 2011 at 11:31:56 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  It Means Virtually All the Power to Influence (0+ / 0-)

                  policy is in the top few thousand people now.

                  The graphs are VERY accurate at explaining the shift in power.

                  We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

                  by Gooserock on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 05:05:50 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  Do you not understand the graph or (0+ / 0-)

      just not like the facts?

      "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

      by tardis10 on Tue Sep 20, 2011 at 07:48:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  i understand the graph (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        agent

        i just think it does not show what happens to people over time.

        It leaves the impression that only a few people do better over time, which is not the case.

      •  Doesn't Like Facts With Liberal Bias. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        freesia

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 05:06:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The graph is understandable.. (0+ / 0-)

        .. it's a message..

        Now, normalize for age(as mentioned) - as in, a 20 year-old is supposed to have a fraction of the wealth a 50 year-old has..

        Then account for a tax-system that subsidizes those with low wealth, and progressively taxes those with wealth..

        Then account for the fact that some people are just more motivated and productive than others..

        Then superimpose that we still live in a capitalist system.. ie... A company owner who employs 100 people, HAS to have much more wealth than the employees, if by nothing other than the net-worth that makes up the company, that provides the jobs... and the graph "flattens" out, considerably.

    •  Its true that this doesn't track individuals over (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wsexson, GayHillbilly, rcbowman

      time, but other recent studies show that (1) there is less social mobility in the United States than in many OECD countries, and (2) the middle class has actually become downwardly mobile.

      Despite the lack of longitudinal data, this graph still tells us something important: namely that wealth is being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people. We don't know from this graph where those people started out (though based on the other studies, they were likely born into wealthy families), but we do know that economic growth is not benefiting the majority of the country.

      "Politics is what we do, politics is what we create, by what we work for, by what we hope for and what we dare to imagine." -Paul Wellstone

      by WellstoneDem on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 06:35:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Diminishing wealth that is diminishing (0+ / 0-)

    ever further.Since unemployment is expected to remain high for years, inequality will likely increase because weak labor markets have a larger negative impact on income at the middle and low end of distribution. Given the decrease in the number of earners working full-time this longtime trending isn't going away. (last nos. I read showed there was a 9.4 million decline in the number of people with full-time employment between 2007-2010) Especially given a cowed and fearful populace with GOP legislators burbling about ending minimum wage & child labor protections.

    "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

    by tardis10 on Tue Sep 20, 2011 at 07:18:14 AM PDT

    •  The Wealthy Were Taxed So Heavily That They (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GayHillbilly

      weren't compensated at today's rates.

      That's why most of the nation's wealth was held by most of its people at the pinnacle of the New Deal- Great Society era, whereas most of it was held by the rich the entire rest of our history and human history.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 05:23:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Might explain problems with (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GayHillbilly

      social security and medicare.

      People in the top 1%-5% don't make most of their money as earned income. They quickly maxout their social security obligation.

      With the bottom 60%, who do pay s/s & medicare taxes on every cent they make, making less. Less is going into these programs.

      The real problem with these programs may be the  redistribution of wealth and unemployment.

      Today's problems are yesterday's solutions. Don Beck

      by Sherri in TX on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 05:54:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  How does college debt factor into this? /nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    agent

    Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
    I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
    —Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Tue Sep 20, 2011 at 09:28:41 AM PDT

    •  probably makes (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      agent, polecat

      the bottom fifth look worse. More people in their early twenties with negative net worth due to college debt. But with higher earning potential to move up the chart.

      A newly graduated doctor makes the bottom fifth look worse, but in a good way.

      •  I Payed for State U Working Fast Food and (0+ / 0-)

        summer camp and construction and ended with zero debt. I hit the bottom edge of the top 20% for a while.

        Today I would've finished that same education owing most of a house. I see no way I could have made it into the top 20% but it was an outside possibility.

        This has hurt the bottom 80% not 20%.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 05:25:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Worse Probably For Bottom 80%. I Finished State U (0+ / 0-)

      undergrad way back having worked fast food and summer camp & construction to pay for it, with zero debt. 20 years later I just made it into the top 20%.

      Finishing that education today would've cost me about $60,000 including housing books and living & extracurricular expenses I incurred.

      So from working fast food for income I'd have owed the cost of a decent family car or the conventional down payment on a starter house when I began my career today.

      Now that's for someone who should by comparison to the past be at the head of the bottom 80%.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 05:31:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GayHillbilly

        I work with many twenty-something folks who are living on years and years after college with roommates because the payments on their student loans prevent them from establishing their own households.

        I don't make more money than they do, but they look at my rather modest lifestyle -- I rent a smaller one-bedrooom apartment -- with real envy.

        This seems wrong.  My dad bought a house on the salary from his first job out of college.  My mother was a stay-at-home Mom.

        "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

        by bink on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 05:45:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have a Masters Degree (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bink

          and work 3 jobs and I STILL can't afford a house. And I consider myself fortunate because at least I'm working. Belive me, I am NOT complaining. However, a guy with my education/experience would have no problem affording a house 30 or 40 years ago. My parents, OTOH, were able to buy a house, despite having no college education, in the 70's. So something has definitely happened to the idea that kids do better than their parents.

          A village can not reorganize village life to suit the village idiot.

          by METAL TREK on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 10:29:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Studies have shown that upward mobility in the US (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaleA, tardis10

    is lagging behind virtually all the other developed countries in the world.  That means that the odds of moving up in class are declining--or if you are born poor you will probably stay that way in the US.  

  •  Who can argue what you' ve presented? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock

    What can be done about this?  What can happen in our country fiscially/economically to make whites be less economically advantaged than all the other races (I'm taling overall and as a majority....so please don't show me exceptions as an argument to this).  

    I don't see anything in the near future that will change this situation in any meaningful way.

    - If you don't like gay marriage, blame straight people. They're the ones who keep having gay babies.

    by r2did2 on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 05:11:58 PM PDT

    •  No But It's Written in Complete Detail In History (0+ / 0-)

      books since we proved the solution to this entire problem in the past. The Democratic Party provided almost all of it, and the Republican Party fought almost all of it. The only thing is we hadn't yet brought all the marginalized populations, and women to this day, into the full promise of those solutions before we began painstakingly taking apart all the solutions.

      Both parties today oppose those solutions and the most important of those policies seem far too extreme when presented to most people today, most of whom are too young to have seen them being passed and first improving life for the people.

      So you're right in thinking you can't see a time when it could happen, but as to what can be done about it, we already did it, all of it, before, for the white mainstream and that points the way to doing it for everyone else too.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 05:36:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Powerful Graph (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GayHillbilly

    I hope the Dems. in Congress use it over and over again when the debate on the Jobs Bill and paying for it begins.  Everytime a Republican Congresscritter gets up and starts talking about how taxing the rich hurts the "Job Creators", Dems. should respond by showing him (and the Nation) this graph!

    "Some men see things as they are and ask, 'Why?' I dream of things that never were and ask, 'Why not?"

    by Doctor Who on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 05:12:10 PM PDT

  •  Bottom 60% lost wealth? (0+ / 0-)

    Thats not what the graph shows.  It shows the "share of the gain" was less.  I don't know what numbers they used, but theoretically, each "class" of individuals could have gained wealth while the "share of the gain" was less.  

  •  Like All FP Stories This One Has Many Comments (0+ / 0-)

    I can't rec. Happens in every story. Not all comments, but many.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 05:22:26 PM PDT

    •  Come on Gooserock (0+ / 0-)

      Just one time. Push my + button. Please!

    •  That's Because (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rcbowman

      Some of the comments in this piece are several days old, meaning that it was posted to the Diaries first and then spent several days languishing in the front page queue before finally going up.  I noticed this with Mr. Bowers's Scott Walker story as well.  I'm guessing that stories whose value is not necessarily time-dependent can get stuck in the backlog for a while.

      "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

      by bink on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 05:42:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for confirming that. (0+ / 0-)

        I was just figuring out that was what's going on.

        I frankly don't get why we can't Rec comments that are years old - part of the point of diarying or commenting in a forum which persists is to have our words read in the future - but at least there's a rule behind it.

        Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end.

        by rcbowman on Sun Sep 25, 2011 at 12:26:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Tis the tale of Robbing Hoods (0+ / 0-)

    Take from the poor and give to the rich.

    "Don't dream it, be it" - Brad, Janet and Frank

    by captainlaser on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 05:24:57 PM PDT

  •  The Job Creators NEED that wealth. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JC from IA, rcbowman

    Owning the US government and the US traditional media is very expensive.

    While I don't hold Obama in high esteem, that doesn't mean I would say he's the Devil Incarnate and the lessor of evils. He is merely the lessee of evils.

    by xynz on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 05:32:36 PM PDT

  •  Nothing that more tax cuts for the upper brackets (0+ / 0-)

    won't remedy, you know.

    Just ask Paul Ryan; he's very serious, I've heard.

  •  Exactly what President Obama is... (0+ / 0-)

    talking about right now at the CBC awards...

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/...

    "Congress has not been able to fix these flaws so far, so I will." - President Obama, 9/23/11

    by BarackStarObama on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 05:40:43 PM PDT

  •  I just know it makes me proud... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rcbowman

    to know all my labor has managed to make my bossman richer.  I admire him so.  It warms my heart to know that my effort enables him to gold plate the bathroom fixtures on his corporate plane.

    It's what makes my life worthwhile.

  •  When you click on the link you find a (0+ / 0-)

    graph with no back up.   There is interesting data in the paper by Allegretto, which is referenced on th linked page but not this.

  •  The culmination of (0+ / 0-)

    VOODOO economics!!!!  Republican dreams of supply side economics have ruined this country.

  •  Supply side economics (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    METAL TREK

    simply put means we supply the upper 5% with all of the wealth........

    that is all

  •  How can anybody's share of wealth gain be negative (0+ / 0-)

    There is something bad wrong with this graph and the terminology.

    So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

    by illinifan17 on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 05:57:17 PM PDT

    •  Their (our) share of the wealth decreased. (0+ / 0-)

      That is, the total wealth of the nation increased, but when you break down the population into fifths, you find that the wealthiest 40% increased in wealth, while the rest actually decreased in wealth. So when the nation gained, say, a billion dollars in wealth, out of that billion, nearly $920 million went to the top 10% (the first three bars on that graph), but nearly $100 million went to the next 10%, and another $57 million went to the next 20%.

      So in total, for every $1 billion the nation's private wealth rose, the upper 40% of the population somehow gained over $1.07 billion. Where did that extra $70 million or so come from? It came from wealth lost over the same period by the bottom three fifths.

      That's why, if you add only the positive percentages, the gains by the upper two fifths on this graph, you get more than 100%. The excess is offset by the losses of the lower three fifths.

      Hope that helps.

      Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end.

      by rcbowman on Sun Sep 25, 2011 at 12:48:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  i'm willing to wager that it does not show this (0+ / 0-)
    It says, if you were in the top 5 percent in 1983, how much of the wealth that the country gained went to you?

    I bet that they looked at the top 5% in 1983 and compared them to the top 5% in 2009. IOW it was not the same set of people in both periods.

    So that Zuckerberg dude from Facebook is used as proof that the rich are getting richer, when many of the rich today are evidence of the poor getting rich.

    Unless you keep people in the same category in both time frames, you cannot see what is happening.

    •  It means (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      freesia

      that you don't understand what they're measuring.
      It isn't tracking individuals. It's tracking wealth.

      (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

      by PJEvans on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 06:14:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  look at the diary title (0+ / 0-)

        'bottom 60% of Americans lost wealth'

        If you looked at the people who were in the bottom 60% in 1983 and looked at those same people today, they would have far more wealth.

        •  the bottom 60% are poorer today than they were in (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          freesia

          83.

          the chart isn't hard to understand.

          i understand what you are saying, but you need to look at the big picture.

          mortgage, credit and college debt, stagnant wages, job loss, exorbitant medical costs and wages which haven't kept up with the price of gasoline, food and shelter have destroyed the middle class.

          The typical S&P CEO makes 300 times more than a typical worker, it used to be 30x.

          what the chart says is this- the slice of the wealth pie that the bottom 60% owns, is smaller than it was in 83. where did that missing pie go?

          the top 40% now own a larger part of that pie, while the bottom 60% own less.

  •  "A rising tide lifts all boats"? (0+ / 0-)

    Remember when Reagan said "A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats"? I hope that some of the rationally conservative end of the old Republican party, not to mention the 'Reagan Democrats', will see this chart and have the grace to be dumbstruck and outraged. Heck, even Saint Ronald himself might be a little taken aback by it, if he could be persuaded to take note, and to credit the possibility that his policies had failed; I think he was a true believer in this stuff.

    But as we know it was not just Reagan's own policies that sank the middle and lower classes, but the follow-on policies enacted with bipartisan enthusiasm, riding Reagan's coattails, that amounted to a deliberate, patient drilling of holes in the bottoms of everyone else's boats.

    After all, why should the financial aristocracy ever content itself with merely rising on a tide with the riffraff in their leaky boats and rafts, when they can sink them altogether, and raise the water under their own yachts just a couple of inches more?

    One can always get a little higher up the mountain by stepping on the face of the one who's helped you up, right?

    Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end.

    by rcbowman on Sun Sep 25, 2011 at 12:15:06 PM PDT

    •  You should write opinion pieces for (0+ / 0-)

      the mainstream press :) Till you got fired... This is a terrific little piece of writing.

      "Maybe this is how empires die - their citizens just don't deserve to be world leaders anymore." -Kossack Puddytat, In a Comment 18 Sept 2011

      by pixxer on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 08:45:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you conservative fiscal policy... (0+ / 0-)

    for destroying economic freedom, social mobility, and the ability of the working class to keep the wealth they create.

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