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Leave No One Behind: Wealth Inequality

“In 2021, the top 10 percent of Americans held nearly 70 percent of U.S. wealth, up from about 61 percent at the end of 1989. The share held by the next 40 percent fell correspondingly over that period. The bottom 50 percent (roughly sixty-three million families) owned about 2.5 percent of wealth in 2021.”

Key Takeaways (Data in References)

  1. On a national level, economic inequality (gaps in both income and wealth) has risen since 1980, continues to widen, and is greater than other developed countries. The COVID-19 pandemic and the recent economic recession has exacerbated these trends.

  2. U.S. upper-income households are seeing more rapid growth in their share of the nation’s aggregate income, while the middle-class majority share is shrinking. The most rapid income and wealth growth favors the top 5%, consequently focusing financial resources to the richest households. U.S. household wealth has not returned to pre-2008 recession levels, coupled with only modest household income growth.

  3. U.S. Census Bureau data reveals significant wealth and income gaps across different groups, such as race/ethnicity, education level, homeownership status, poverty, and health insurance coverage. The wealth gap is wider than the income gap and is growing more rapidly.

Prosperity Now | Prosperity Now

In recognition of Wealth Inequality Month, CREA is proud to make contributions to Prosperity Now, a national nonprofit organization striving to address, mitigate, and transform unjust and structurally racist practices and policies that perpetuate economic inequality. Through research, education, outreach, and systems-oriented solutions, Prosperity Now seeks to foster equitable economic empowerment so everyone can thrive and build sustainable wealth across generations for their families and communities.

  1. Watch a video overview of their innovative approach to building economic power.

  2. For a detailed timeline of their impact since 1979, see their history and highlights.

  3. To invest in Prosperity Now’s mission of equitable economic opportunity and financial stability, donate here!


Wealth & Income Inequality

Wealth inequality is a more impactful measure of a family or individual’s assets and financial stability and mobility in comparison to income inequality, which only measures the amount of money obtained over an interval of time. Conversely, wealth represents the total of all long-term financial assets an individual or family may have. Both these measures have one thing in common: across the income and wealth distribution curves, there is a gap—or inequality—in terms of the available resources and opportunity to grow. Unfortunately, this gap continues to expand in the United States and there are statistically significant differences observed across racial and ethnic groups, educational achievement, and other variables.

Here, we encourage you to take some time to digest the eye-opening realities illustrated by the following videos and graphics. Stark wealth inequality in the United States is evident to most individuals. Unfortunately, the actual wealth distribution is weighted across the population far more unfairly than what we already believe. These wealth gaps are particularly worsened across racial groups and highest education achieved; these two mitigating factors cannot be overlooked.

Wealth Inequality in America

Click above to watch a video featuring enlightening statistics on wealth inequality in the United States.

Video Summary: The actual distribution of wealth in America is inequitably skewed worse than what Americans think — and much worse than what Americans indicate should be the ideal distribution of our nation’s wealth. Divisive patterns of economic inequality have continued to grow since this video from 2012, with noteworthy racial, ethnic and gender differences.

Racial/Ethnic Wealth Gap

“Despite all the ostensible progress Black Americans made in politics, business, and culture in the mid-to-late 20th and early 21st centuries, the economists find there’s been very little progress in closing the average racial wealth gap since 1950. By 1950, the ratio of white-to-Black wealth fell to 7 to 1. Today, it’s 6 to 1. For every dollar the average white American has, the average Black American has only about 17 cents. (For those wondering about the median, it’s even worse: for every dollar the median white household has, the median Black household has just 10 cents).”

Learn more by exploring Prosperity Now’s Racial Wealth Gap infographics here.

For Further Information:

Wealth Inequality and Housing

Homeownership not only fulfills the basic need for shelter; it serves as a means for families to accumulate wealth. However, rising house prices have led to a housing affordability crisis: Low- and middle-income families do not have equitable financial access to homeownership, which in turn limits their capacity to build housing wealth as their principal asset. Research demonstrates that high-homeownership countries exhibit low wealth inequality—housing flattens the wealth distribution curve—but rising house prices in the United States and subsequent high mortgage debt demands a persistent economic resilience that those with a lower wealth and income cannot endure. This widespread policy issue between wealth inequality and housing prompts an necessary response by the federal government that addresses the need for wealth accumulation in low- and middle-income families, where they do not bear too heavy a financial risk.[1]

Furthermore, expanding the access to and supply of affordable housing for low-income individuals is not the end of the story: Policies must geographically connect decent jobs with affordable housing developments to stimulate economic productivity. Trends reveal that low- to moderate-wage workers are moving farther from their workplace and higher-wage jobs in booming metropolitan regions to seek affordable housing opportunities, which lowers overall economic output. The high demand for affordable housing near well-paying jobs raises housing prices, creating a geographic imbalance between an individual’s income and the local cost of living, particularly effecting low- and middle-income workers.

In other words, “ensuring that the local housing supply fits locally employed low-wage workers’ ability to afford it would address social equity, as it would lead to shorter commutes, a better quality of life, and a boost in disposable income and savings opportunities.”[2]

CREA is deeply dedicated to its mission: opportunity starts with a safe place to call home. Access to opportunity through building housing wealth is inextricably linked to the ability to afford a home, first and foremost. Making affordable housing a reality allows us to positively impact these communities by increasing homeownership opportunities. This opportunity, so long a part of the American dream, would offer low- and middle-income individuals and families a vehicle to accumulate and transfer wealth to the next generation.

For Further Information:


Proposed Solutions to Wealth Inequality

  1. More progressive income tax code

  2. Higher minimum wage

  3. Expanded educational opportunities

  4. Supporting unionization

  5. Increased tax on inherited wealth

  6. Eliminate student loan debt

  7. Tuition-free public college

  8. All job postings publicly available

  9. Improve unemployment benefits

  10. More affordable rental housing

  11. End residential discrimination/segregation

For Further Information:

Other Wealth Inequality-Related Organizations – Donate or Get Involved

  1. United for a Fair Economy: Educational programs, actions campaigns, research initiatives, and public awareness regarding growing income and wealth inequality across different groups.

  2. GiveDirectly: Nonprofit platform that provides cash to people living in situations of extreme poverty worldwide.

  3. DonorsChoose: Supports combating racial and socioeconomic inequity in school funding. Donate to help teachers purchase the necessary supplies and resources for underfunded public schools.

  4. National Committee on Pay Equity: Advocacy coalition of women’s and civil rights organizations unanimously aimed at achieving pay equity for women and people of color in the United States.

  5. Browse thorough lists of Organizations, Think Tanks, Academic Centers, Public Interest Groups, and Projects that all have inequality-related agendas and missions.

Book Recommendations

  1. “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” by Matthew Desmond

  2. “Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else” by Chrystia Freeland

  3. “Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation” by 36 major contemporary writers

  4. “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein

  5. “The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap” by Mehrsa Baradaran

  6. “The Economics of Inequality” by Thomas Piketty

  7. “The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality” by Branko Milanovic

  8. “The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future” by Joseph E. Stiglitz

  9. “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty” by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

  10. “Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class” by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson


References & Resources


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