WASHINGTON – A rising stock market lifted U.S. household wealth to a record $106.9 trillion in the April-June quarter, the culmination of a decade of economic recovery but a gain that is concentrated largely among the most affluent.
The value of Americans' stock and mutual fund portfolios rose $800 billion last quarter, while home values increased $600 billion, the Federal Reserve said Thursday. Total household wealth is now 2.1 percent higher than in the first quarter, when it was at $104.7 trillion.
The Fed's report came on a day when a wave of buying on Wall Street sent U.S. stocks surging and lifted both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index to all-time highs.
The Dow has gained nearly 8 percent this year, the S&P nearly 10 percent.
Household net worth reflects the value of assets like homes, bank accounts and stocks minus debts like mortgages and credit cards. The data aren't adjusted for inflation or population growth.
They also don't reflect the experiences of most U.S. households. Stock market wealth has been flowing disproportionately – and increasingly – to the most affluent households. The richest one-tenth of Americans own about 84 percent of the value of stocks. That's up from 81 percent just before the Great Recession began in late 2007.
That trend is concerning to some economists, who regard such sizable disparities in wealth as unhealthy for an economy. When lower- and middle-income people don't share much in overall prosperity, many are forced to absorb more debt.
“I would be happy in a world where we saw big stock increases – if stocks were more broadly distributed across the population,” said Josh Bivens, director of research at the liberal Economic Policy Institute. “The fact that is where most of the gains are going is worrisome.”