Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos
Lacy O’ Toole | CNBC; Getty Images
The wealth of America’s wealthiest people, such as Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos, increased by a total of $6.5 trillion last year, mainly driven by soaring stock prices and financial markets, according to the Federal Reserve.
The total wealth of the 1% reached a record $45.9 trillion at the end of the fourth quarter of 2021, said the Federal Reserve’s latest report on household wealth. Their fortunes increased by more than $12 trillion, or more than a third, during the course of the pandemic.
“The numbers are astounding,” said Edward Wolff, professor of economics at New York University. “The pandemic wealth boom certainly ranks at or near the top of all the wealth booms over the last 40 years.”
The top 1% owned a record 32.3% of the nation’s wealth as of the end of 2021, data show. The share of wealth held by the bottom 90% of Americans, likewise, has declined slightly since before the pandemic, from 30.5% to 30.2%.
The wealth growth at the top has potentially stalled or declined slightly so far this year due to stock declines.
The main drivers for the richest Americans last year were stocks and private businesses. About $4.3 trillion of the overall gains for the 1% last year came from corporate equities and mutual fund shares, according to the Fed data. The stock portfolios of the top 1% are now worth $23 trillion, and they own a record 53.9% of individually held shares, according to the central bank.
Despite claims of a democratization of the stock market, with millions of new retail investors opening trading accounts on Robinhood and other platforms, stock ownership in America has actually become more concentrated than before the pandemic. The top 10% owned a record 89% of individually held corporate equities and mutual fund shares at the end of 2021.
A Gallup in 2021 found that 56% of Americans owned at least some stock — slightly above the average of 55% in 2019 and 2020, but still down from the 62%…
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