What The Data Says About Wealth Inequality
Wealth inequality has gone through peaks and troughs throughout history.
Most recently, in the decade between 2010 and 2020, the top 1% of U.S. households’ portion of wealth has gone from 28.6% to 31.2%.
However, when expressed in raw dollars, things begin to look different. Wealth during the same period for the 1% went from approximately $17.5 trillion to $35 trillion. Meanwhile, the total wealth pool rose from $60 trillion to $112 trillion.
In other words, all households by category have amassed wealth during the same period, albeit at different rates.
|Household Wealth Percentile||Annual Growth in Wealth (CAGR)|
Source: The Federal Reserve
Drivers Of Wealth Inequality
The longest bull market in history, which went from March 2009 to February 2020, has been a big driver for the recent divergence. The U.S. composition of wealth for the top 1% of households skews towards corporate equities and mutual funds, of which they collectively own $14 trillion. By contrast, the bottom 50% of households own $0.16 trillion.
It’s often said a stock market correction is long overdue. Since the top 1% of households clearly have the most skin in the game, if one were to transpire, wealth inequality would likely retract.
A Longer Term Look
Although the inequality of wealth is heavily discussed in today’s climate, the numbers have been higher before.
Wealth inequality, measured by the top 1% of U.S. households’ portion of wealth, was at its peak at the start of the 20th century. Back then, a harsh and more concrete class divide with lower rates of upward mobility were common themes.
At its peak in 1910, the top 1% of U.S. households owned well over 40% of all wealth. Major world wars and the Great Depression seemed to be catalysts against this, and the years after WWII brought about some of the lowest levels of inequality seen in the modern era.
Wealth inequality has ebbed and flowed throughout history, but it has steadily crept back up in the last few decades. Today, its adverse effects continue to garner the attention of more people—including policy makers who are facing immense pressure to find a solution.
Seeing Red: Is the Heydey of Pandemic Stocks Over?
Worries over post-COVID demand and rising interest rates have fueled a market selloff, with pandemic stocks hit particularly hard.
Seeing Red: Is the Heydey of Pandemic Stocks Over?
The stock market, and the stocks that flourished during the COVID-19 pandemic in particular, are off to a rough start in 2022. If you’ve been watching your investment accounts, chances are you’ve been seeing a lot of red. Shaken by the uncertainty of a pandemic recovery and future interest rate hikes, investors have been selling off their stocks.
This market selloff—which occurs when investors sell a large volume of securities in a short period of time, leading to a rapid decline in price—has investors concerned. In fact, search interest for the term “selloff” recently reached peak interest of 100.
Which stocks were the hardest hit, and how much are their prices down so far this year?
The Lackluster Returns of Pandemic Stocks
Pandemic stocks and tech-centric companies have suffered the most. Here’s a closer look at the year-to-date price returns for select stocks.
|Company||Year-to-Date Price Return|
Price returns are in U.S. dollars based on data from January 3, 2022 to January 21, 2022.
Netflix fueled the selloff after it reported disappointing subscriber growth. The company added 8.28 million subscribers in the fourth quarter, which is less than the 8.5 million it added in the fourth quarter of 2020. It also projects to have slower year-over-year subscriber growth in the near term, citing competition from other streaming companies.
Meanwhile, Coinbase stock lost nearly a quarter of its value so far this year. As the price of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have plummeted, investors worry Coinbase will see lower trading volume and therefore lower fees.
The contagion also spread to other pandemic stocks, such as Zoom and DocuSign, as investors began to doubt the staying power of stay-at-home stocks.
Following the Herd
While investor exuberance drove many of these stocks up last year, 2022 is beginning to paint a different picture.
Investors are worried that rising rates will negatively impact high-growth stocks, because it means it’s more expensive to borrow money. Not only that, but they also may see Netflix’s growth as harbinger of things to come for other pandemic stocks.
The psychology of the market cycle also plays a role—amid these fears, investors have adopted a herd mentality and begun selling their shares in droves.
How People Around the World Feel About Their Economic Prospects
In many of the world’s largest economies, including the U.S., Germany, and China, optimism around economic prospects sits at an all-time low.
How Countries Feel About Their Economic Prospects
Each year, the Edelman Trust Barometer report helps gauge the level of trust people place in various systems of power.
The report is also a useful tool to gauge the general mood in countries around the world—and when it comes to how people in developed economies feel about the near future, there’s a very clear answer: pessimistic. In fact, optimism about respondents’ economic prospects fell in the majority of countries surveyed.
Here’s a full look how many respondents in 28 countries feel they and their families will be doing better over the next five years. Or, put more simply, what percentage of people are optimistic about their economic circumstances?
|Country||% who are optimistic||All-time low?||Change from 2021 (p.p.)|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||39%||+6|
|🇿🇦 South Africa||66%||-2|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||73%||0|
Interestingly, nine countries (those with checkmarks above) are polling at all-time lows for economic optimism in survey history.
Whose Glass is Half Empty?
Japanese respondents were the most pessimistic, with only 15% seeing positive economic prospects in the near term. Only 18% of French respondents were economically optimistic.
While most developed economies were slightly more optimistic than Japan and France, all are still well below the global average.
As tensions between China and the U.S. continue to heat up in 2022, there is one thing that can unite citizens in the two countries—a general feeling that economic prospects are souring. As the U.S. heads into midterm elections and China’s 20th National Party Congress takes place, leaders in both countries will surely have the economy on their minds.
Whose Glass is Half Full?
Of course, the mood isn’t all doom and gloom everywhere. The United Arab Emirates saw a 6 percentage point (p.p.) jump in their population’s economic prospects.
Indonesia saw an 11 p.p. increase, and in big developing economies like Brazil and India, the general level of optimism is still quite high.
In some ways, it’s no surprise that people in developing economies are more optimistic about their economic prospects. Living standards are generally rising in many of these countries, and more opportunities open up as the economy grows. Even in the most pessimistic African country surveyed, South Africa, the majority of people still see improving circumstances in their near future. In Kenya and Nigeria, an overwhelming majority are optimistic.
One major prediction that experts agreed on for the year ahead is that economic outcomes will begin to diverge between countries with differing levels of vaccine access.
While this doesn’t seem to have affected attitudes towards economic optimism yet, it remains to be seen how this will play out as the year progresses.
Misc2 weeks ago
From Greek to Latin: Visualizing the Evolution of the Alphabet
Best of4 weeks ago
Our Top 21 Visualizations of 2021
Markets3 weeks ago
Prediction Consensus: What the Experts See Coming in 2022
Technology6 days ago
The 20 Internet Giants That Rule the Web
Technology3 weeks ago
Companies Gone Public in 2021: Visualizing IPO Valuations
Misc4 weeks ago
Mapped: Top Trending Searches of 2021 in Every U.S. State
Green4 weeks ago
Mapped: 30 Years of Deforestation and Forest Growth, by Country
Markets3 weeks ago
How Every Asset Class, Currency, and S&P 500 Sector Performed in 2021