The Federal Reserve’s 2022 consumer finance survey unveils a striking picture of American prosperity, revealing that the mean net worth of the average household has ascended to $1.06 million, a 23% from $868,000 in 2019. This statistic, while impressive, masks a more nuanced and unequal economic landscape.
Despite the seemingly thriving financial status of American households, the reality is more complex, particularly for the middle class. The COVID-19 pandemic, which drastically impacted economic activities, didn’t halt the growth in family finances, particularly in net worth. Between 2019 and 2022, real median family income modestly grew by 3%, while the real mean family income saw a more significant 15% increase. These gains were predominantly enjoyed by the higher income brackets, amplifying existing income inequalities.
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The period witnessed a 37% surge in real median net worth and a 23% rise in real mean net worth, marking the largest three-year increase in the history of the modern Survey of Consumer Finances. Yet, this aggregate growth masks the unequal distribution of wealth gains. Homeownership, often a key component of net worth, rose slightly to 66.1%, with the median net housing value jumping from $139,100 in 2019 to $201,000 in 2022. The growth in housing values contributed significantly to net worth increases but also exacerbated housing affordability issues, as median home values soared to more than 4.6 times the median family income.
Inequality is further highlighted in retirement plan participation and stock market investments. While over two-thirds of working-age families participated in retirement plans, the increases in account balances were mainly seen in families in the upper half of the income distribution….
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