The U.S. Wealth Barbell

Duly noted in a research piece by Merrill Lynch, the wealth gap continues to widen, poverty grows:

The following article caught our attention on the Wall Street Journal Online, “Millionaire Population Soars – Again.” The Wall Street Journal is reporting on a survey performed by Phoenix Marketing International’s Affluent Market Practice. According to the survey, the number of American households with investible assets of $1 million or more rose 8% in the 12 months ended in June. In total, according to this survey, there are more than 5.55 million US households with investible assets of $1 million or more. The millionaire count has now returned to 2006 levels, but is still below the peak reached in 2007 of 5.97 million.

In stark contrast to the previous article, the Census Bureau released its annual snapshot of American living standards. The Census Bureau found that the fraction of Americans living in poverty rose sharply to 14.3% in 2009, up from 13.2% previously. This is the highest level since 1994. In total, 43.6 million Americans were living in poverty last year. To read more, check out the Wall Street Journal Online article, “Poverty Rate Rises To 14.3%.”

The Census snapshot also indicated that the gap between the best-off and worst-off Americans widened a bit more in 2009, a long-standing trend, but not by much. The top fifth of households accounted for 50.3% of all pre-tax income; the bottom two-fifths got 12%. In 1999, the top fifth claimed 49.4% and the bottom got 12.5% of the income. Have a look at page A1 of the WSJ, “Lost Decade for Family Income.”

I hope to have more on the Census Bureau’s just-released report early next week,  as it’s chock full of good data (as will be today’s release of the Fed’s Flow of Funds).  Suffice to say the news is not good; it is saddening to see the poverty rate on the rise and engulf almost 44 million Americans.

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