A new study by a group of economics researchers suggests that the top one percent of the U.S. now hold as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, a lopsided split that is approaching levels not seen since early last century.
In the new report, Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics, claim that wealth inequality is approaching levels similar to those from just before the 1929 stock market crash that brought on The Great Depression.
At that time, 90 percent of the country held only 16 percent of the nation’s wealth. Things changed dramatically after The Great Depression ended as the middle class grew from the ashes of World War II. By 1980, the researchers say, middle class American had considerably closed that gap.
But according to Saez and Zucman, today’s top one percent earn a larger share of the country’s income from labor, “3.1% in 2012 versus less than 0.5% prior to 1970.”
The researchers say that the 160,000 families that make up the top one percent — those worth $73 million on average — now hold 22 percent of the wealth.
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