According to this article, India's richest 1% controls 73% of the country's wealth.

What is the scenario in the USA?

What percentage of the richest controls what percent of the wealth in the USA?

4 Answers 4


overall, the trend in the U.S. (and I suspect globally) has been to push wealth 'upward' to the 1% group at an increasing rate.

the chart below from Statista clearly illustrates trend from 1990 to 2021

top 1% - - - 32.1% of total wealth

next 9% - - 37.7%

next 40% - - 28.2%

last 50% - - 2%

  • top 1% of population's portion increases 7%
  • next 9% of population's portion increases 3%
  • next 40% of population's portion DECREASES 9%
  • bottom 50% of population's portion decreases 1%

So... in the U.S roughly 70% of the total wealth is controlled by 10% of the population and 1/2 of the population has almost nothing. The trends shown on chart show rich are continuing to get richer while poor are getting poorer faster.

U.S. wealth distribution chart

enter image description here

  • 9
    @code11 India is a VERY poor country compared to America. Most Indians would envy the lifestyles of poor Americans. Our poor people mostly have indoor plumbing, TVs, refrigerators, etc.
    – Barmar
    Jun 6, 2022 at 21:46
  • 3
    "1/2 of the population has almost nothing" In absolute terms, or relative? If relative, I assume that's when compared to the wealth of the upper half of the US. How does it compare to the upper half of the world?
    – erickson
    Jun 6, 2022 at 21:53
  • 5
    @erickson : indeed, the wealth gap alone on itself is not enough of an indicator for life quality. If in country A the majority of the population lives a decent even if not luxurious life, while the 1% is unfathomably extremely rich, while in country B the majority of the population is on the brink of starvation while the ruling class is composed of warlords (or party officials) who can afford some luxuries for themselves and their families, then county B has much less income inequality, but I'd still rather live in county A.
    – vsz
    Jun 6, 2022 at 22:04
  • 5
    -1 for "The trends shown on chart show rich are continuing to get richer while poor are getting poorer faster." That's not what it shows. It shows that the rate of change for wealth among the wealthy is slightly better than among the lower economic classes, but that's it. You can't even deduct from that chart whether overall wealth is increasing or decreasing, let alone the rate of that. In reality, wealth is increasing at every level, just faster for those who are already wealthy (well, as a long-term trend, at least... maybe not so much this year specifically...)
    – reirab
    Jun 6, 2022 at 22:13
  • 2
    Additionally, looking at cumulative net worth leads to weird effects when looking at the bottom 50%. Particularly, recent college graduates typically have negative net worth, as they typically have loans that (far) exceed their assets. This usually continues to be the case for at least a few years (for most professions) or several years (for doctors, lawyers, pilots, etc.) This means that it takes the next several percent of people for the cumulative net worth to add up to zero. I think we can all agree that saying doctors, lawyers, and airline pilots have "almost nothing" is absurd.
    – reirab
    Jun 6, 2022 at 22:31

This page by Pew Research indicates that the trend for the USA is similar. Mostly due to economic movement caused by the Great Recession, the last decade has seen the comparative income share of the middle class decrease and that of the upper class increase to 48%.

You asked specifically about wealth and the article addresses that as well. It states that the upper income wealth percentage increased to 79%, which would put it on par with that of your original indian number. The article explains this by stating that the majority of equity held by the middle class is tied to real estate (which did poorly in the recession), whereas the investments of the upper class are presumably more diversified. To quote the article:

The reason for this is that middle-income families are more dependent on home equity as a source of wealth than upper-income families, and the bursting of the housing bubble in 2006 had more of an impact on their net worth. Upper-income families, who derive a larger share of their wealth from financial market assets and business equity, were in a better position to benefit from a relatively quick recovery in the stock market once the recession ended.

However, the Pew values are in terms of low, middle and high income, and I had trouble finding what they used to define those buckets.

I did find a different page from cnbc reporting that the 1% wealth share as of 2021 was 32.3%. So that would indicate that it is less than that of India.

  • 1
    "Mostly due to economic movement caused by the Great Recession" The trend has been steady with only modest short term interruption since the early 1970s.
    – ohwilleke
    Jun 6, 2022 at 19:23
  • ^ That was my prior understanding as well, but this article suggested it was more tied to real estate equity. I think the difference is whether or not you're looking at income disparity or equity disparity. I'll update that part with a quote.
    – code11
    Jun 6, 2022 at 19:45

It depends on exactly how wealth is being defined.

It could either be defined as...

  1. The amount of money and property someone has left after expenses (net worth).
  2. A person's income.

Defining wealth in terms of net worth doesn't always give an accurate picture. For example, if I earn a million dollars a year and spend it all, my net worth is zero at the end of the year, but I probably am living a pretty good life.

On the other hand, if I earn $50,000 a year but rent a cheap room somewhere, and don't go out much I might manage to save like $30K a year and have half a million dollars in the bank (net worth) by the time I am 35 years old.

So, lets define wealth in terms of income. In that case we can use the AGI numbers from the 1040 data the IRS publishes.

It seems that data lags by a few years, so the last published spreadsheet they give is this one for 2019.

Cell D42 of the spreadsheet shows that the lower 99% had an adjusted gross income of $7.6 Trillion in 2019 (out of a total of $12 Trillion for all individual returns).

The GDP of the united states is estimated at $21.4 Trillion in 2019.

Based on that...

  • There is $9.4 Trillion in income (43.9% of GDP) that is not reported as individual income (most likely filed as business income).
  • The lower 99% control $7.6 Trillion / $12 Trillion = 63% of all individual income in the US.
  • The lower 99% control $7.6 Trillion / $21.4 Trillion = 35.5% of all income (wealth) in the US.
  • 4
    At the same time, looking only at income also doesn't describe the whole picture. Net worth allows individuals to reduce risk due to sudden expenditures like recession, job loss and medical emergencies. Who is more stressed? A blue collar worker who is feeding a family of four on 50K with zero in the bank, or someone living in a mansion with a million in the bank, living off 50k of interest/investment?
    – code11
    Jun 6, 2022 at 20:03
  • @code11 I agree with that to some extent. If there is good metric that somehow combines net worth and income to calculate wealth that would certainly be better.
    – user4574
    Jun 6, 2022 at 20:07
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – reirab
    Jun 7, 2022 at 17:55

The previously-accepted answer is correct in its numbers regarding the distribution of wealth between the top 1% (and 10%) and the bottom 50% in the U.S. In particular, according to the Federal Reserve System, the top 1% of American households control 32.3% of the wealth and the top 10% control 69.8%.

U.S. Wealth Distribution
Wealth Distribution in the United States, Source: U.S. Federal Reserve System

However, I felt it necessary to add another answer to correct a serious mistake in the previously-accepted one: decreasing share of overall net worth among the bottom 50% definitely does not equate to actual decreasing net worth in that demographic.

The reality is that all four demographics broken out by the Fed (bottom 50%, 50-90%, 90-99%, and top 1%) have been seeing increasing net worth with only a few brief exceptions since shortly after the 2008-2010 recession. Far from getting poorer, the bottom 50% has seen its net worth increase from a low of $182 billion in Q2 of 2011 to $3,731 billion in Q4 of 2021. The increase has been especially dramatically in the last 5 years, increasing from $1,130 billion in Q4 2016 to the $3,731 billion figure in Q4 2021. This data is also from the Federal Reserve:

U.S. Net Worth By Percentile
U.S. Net Worth by Percentile, Source: Federal Reserve System

Of course, net worth is defined as assets minus liabilities. The Federal Reserve also publishes data for assets and liabilities separately. From Q4 of 2016 until Q4 of 2021, the total assets of the bottom 50% in the U.S. increased from $5,668 billion to $9,352 billion, while liabilities (debt) increased from $4,539 billion to $5,620 billion of the same time period.

For the lower and middle classes in the United States, a very large portion of total assets (and, thus, net worth) tends to be in home value, while a large portion of liabilities tend to be in mortgages on those homes. This is largely why total assets increased quickly during the housing bubble from 2004 through 2007 (when housing prices were inflated,) then decreased from 2007 through 2011 during the recession when home prices returned to more reasonable levels. Of course, a lot of people losing jobs during the recession during that time also contributed to that loss of total assets in the bottom 50% during that period.

Assets and Liabilities of the Bottom 50% in the U.S.
Assets and Liabilities of the Bottom 50% of Households in the U.S., Source: Federal Reserve System

The gray shaded areas in each of these graphs represent periods of economic recession (2 or more consecutive quarters of overall decrease in Gross Domestic Product.)

  • Are these graphs adjusted for inflation?
    – Philipp
    Jun 8, 2022 at 8:09
  • How are these graphs measuring wealth? I am sure it is not in quality of housing they are able to afford, nor amount of petrol they are able to buy. Inflation measures come with there own biases.
    – User65535
    Jun 8, 2022 at 10:08
  • @User65535 As the answer describes, it's total value of assets minus total liabilities (i.e. debts.) Increasing housing prices actually tend to increase wealth for the middle class, since a large portion of the asset value of the middle class tends to be owned homes. Of course, the massive (basically 100%) gains in the stock market from 2016 to 2021 also contributed quite a bit at all levels.
    – reirab
    Jun 8, 2022 at 14:38
  • @Philipp As far as I can tell, they are not. Though, obviously, inflation hasn't been anywhere near the level of gains seen in the last decade and especially the late 2016-2021 period. Per BLS, (total, not annual) inflation from Nov 2016 to Jan 2021 was only 8%. Of course, 2021 and 2022 have been an entirely different story on that front with 11% inflation just in the 15 month period from Jan 2021 to April 2022. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is the official inflation measure for the U.S.)
    – reirab
    Jun 8, 2022 at 14:49
  • @User65535 As for the amount of petrol one can buy, gas prices were actually rather cheap in the U.S. during the 2016-early 2021 period. They were mostly between $2.20 and $2.90/gallon (0.46 GBP/L - 0.61 GBP/L) for regular grade, though they dropped as low as $1.80 (0.38 GBP/L) during the height of the pandemic shutdowns. This year and last have been a different story, though. As of the most recent data I see from just over a month ago, they were at $4.44/gal (0.93 GBP/L,) though I know (from buying gas) that they're higher than that now.
    – reirab
    Jun 8, 2022 at 15:09

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .