This chart contains some of the data on economic inequality from the report of a recent conference organized by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.
From Emmanuel Saez:
In the United States today, the share of total pre-tax income accruing to the top 1 percent has more than doubled over the past five decades. The wealthy among us (families with incomes above $400,000) pulled in 22 percent of pre-tax income in 2012, the last year for which complete data are available, compared to less than 10 percent in the 1970s. What’s more, by 2012 the top 1 percent income earners had regained almost all the ground lost during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. In contrast, the remaining 99 percent experienced stagnated real income growth—after factoring in inflation—after the Great Recession.
Another less documented but equally alarming trend has been the surge in wealth inequality in the United States since the 1970s. In a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Gabriel Zucman at the London School of Economics and I examined information on capital income from individual tax return data to construct measures of U.S. wealth concentration since 1913. We find that the share of total household wealth accrued by the top 1 percent of families— those with wealth of more than $4 million in 2012—increased to almost 42 percent in 2012 from less than 25 percent in the late 1970s. Almost all of this increase is due to gains among the top 0 .1 percent of families with wealth of more than $20 million in 2012. The wealth of these families surged to 22 percent of total household wealth in the United States in 2012 from around 7.5 percent in the late 1970s.
The flip side of such rising wealth concentration is the stagnation in middle-class wealth. Although average wealth per family grew by about 60 percent between 1986 and 2012, the average wealth of families in the bottom 90 percent essentially stagnated. In particular, the Great Recession reduced their average family wealth to $85,000 in 2009 from $130,000 in 2006. By 2012, average family wealth for the bottom 90 percent was still only $83,000. In contrast, wealth among the top 1 percent increased substantially over the same period, regaining most of the wealth lost during the Great Recession.
For both wealth and income, then, there is a very uneven recovery from the losses of the Great Recession, with almost no gains for the bottom 90 percent, and all the gains concentrated among the top 10 percent, and especially the top 1 percent.