The Birth of a New American Aristocracy

The 9.9 percent hold most of the wealth in the United States.

It is in fact the top 0.1 percent who have been the big winners in the growing concentration of wealth over the past half century. If you’re looking for the kind of money that can buy elections, you’ll find it inside the top 0.1 percent — the 160,000 or so households.

Every piece of the pie picked up by the 0.1 percent, in relative terms, had to come from the people below. But not everyone in the 99.9 percent gave up a slice. Only those in the bottom 90 percent did. At their peak, in the mid-1980s, people in this group held 35 percent of the nation’s wealth. Three decades later that had fallen 12 points—exactly as much as the wealth of the 0.1 percent rose.

In between the top 0.1 percent and the bottom 90 percent is a group that has been doing just fine. It has held on to its share of a growing pie decade after decade. And as a group, it owns substantially more wealth than do the other two combined. In the tale of three classes, it is represented by the gold line floating high and steady while the other two duke it out. You’ll find the new aristocracy there. We are the 9.9 percent.

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