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Study: Gaps in wealth grew during recession

Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil | 4/5/2011, 7:51 p.m.

In 2009, the official end of the recession, the average net worth of the top fifth was $1,711,500. This amount represents a considerable decline from 2007, when the average wealth was  more than $2 million, but the bottom fifth dropped much more. By 2009, the bottom fifth was on average $27,200 in debt.

“Despite the recent loss of wealth for the top, the wealth of the richest one percent of American households has increased by half since 1983,” said Sylvia Allegretto, report author and Economic Policy Institute research associate. “The bottom 60 percent, on the other hand, is worse off.”

Although the report does not delve into the recovery, which began in 2009, it suggests that disparities are inherent in it as well. “The recovery since then has proceeded on two tracks,” it says, “one for typical families and workers, who continue to struggle against high rates of unemployment and continued foreclosures, and another track for the investor class and the wealthy, who have enjoyed significant gains in the stock market and benefited from record corporate profits.

 “The Main Street-Wall Street divide remains as big as ever in the aftermath.”

“The State of Working America’s Wealth, 2011” by Sylvia Allegretto is part of the Economic Policy Institute’s “State of Working America” series and can be accessed at http://epi.3cdn.net/002c5fc0fda0ae9cce_aem6idhp5.pdf.