The United States wealth figures continue to impress 4 to 5 years after the end of The Great Recession. Now that last year’s figures are tallied and accounted for, The Boston Consulting Group, using various data sets and government statistics, estimates that as of the end of 2011, wealth held by private American citizens stood at $38,000,000,000,000.
That is $38 trillion. It is a staggering amount to comprehend. Even the richest men in history would be no more than a rounding error in the shadow of that figure. We live in the most mass affluent society to ever exist on the planet. A reasonably successful professor today has amenities not dreamed of by the greatest sultans of the past, from climate controlled rooms to advanced health care options (not to mention more free time than any advanced society that has ever seen the light of day).
What about the breakdown into individual households? As of this year, there are approximately 12,600,000 households in the world that have a net worth exceeding $1,000,000. Of those, 5,100,000 households are in the United States. The number of households in the United States stands at 114,235,996. That means the odds that you live in a millionaire household are 4.46%. Inverting the percentage, this translates into 1 out of every 25 homes.
What happens if we raise the bar higher? Let’s say $100,000,000 in net worth. As of the end of 2011, there are 2,928 households in the United States which have net worths of $100,000,000 or more, representing 0.002563115045%. That is 1 out of every 39,015 households.
And for the most elite club of them all – those who have $1,000,000,000 or more? There were an estimated 363 billionaire households in the United States, representing 0.000317763238% of households. That is 1 out of every 314,700 households.
To summarize, in the United States of America:
1 out of 25 households have $1 million or more
1 out of every 39,015 households have $100 million or more
1 out of every 314,700 households have $1 billion or more
What is the demographic breakdown of millionaire households in the United States?
- Virtually all are, on average, college educated
- A majority of those who are college educated did not attend an Ivy League school, though those institutions are disproportionately represented among these households
- Most are headed by men
- Most fortunes were made outside of finance, music, or movies. The idea that you have to be a singer, actor, or work on Wall Street to make it big is a lie. It seems that way because these are the people you see most often in the news.
- Asians are vastly over represented among the samples as a result of immigrant work ethic and a culture geared toward saving
- A vast majority are first generation wealth, even among the members of the billionaire club
- Almost all are married, a vast majority of whom are married to their first spouse
- Most are in their 50’s or older
For all our flaws, I love this country. I really do. Being born here was like winning the genetic lottery. If you are of reasonable or higher intelligence, have a decently strong work ethic, and self-control, you can make it here. The only major problem we have is the health care situation, where a single illness can bankrupt an otherwise responsible family; a problem we need to solve as a society.
Income inequality, which is meaningless compared to the absolute standard of living for the poorest members of society (that is what really matters – I’d double the gap between the rich and the poor if it meant no child in America went to bed hungry at night) continues to grow, mostly the result of the knowledge skills gap that is widening due to globalization and technology-driven productivity gains as factories become automated. We still retained our spot as the number one manufacturer on the planet, producing 1/5th of the entire economic output of the world’s manufacturing base by value. Our manufacturing base is still as strong as it was in 1960 but only economists know that.
The major problems are the usual suspects: We have a budgetary problem and a trade deficit problem, the latter of which is still entirely caused by the combination of imported oil and foreign cars. But I already said everything I care to in the 5-part essay on how to solve the trade deficit.