NEWS: Rich Got Richer While Middle Class Took on More Debt and Fell Further Behind, According to New CBO Report

Families in the top 10 percent held more than two-thirds of all wealth, while families in the bottom 25 percent on average had more debt than assets

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 — According to a new report requested by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and released Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), wealth inequality for families in the United States has widened significantly in the 30-year period from 1989 to 2019, with the wealthiest one percent getting $29 trillion richer as the average working family saw only a negligible increase.

The report showed the concentration of wealth held by the top 10 percent of families increased from 64 percent to 72 percent – driven almost entirely by an increase in the share held by the top 1 percent, which jumped from 27 percent to 34 percent. During the same 30-year period, the bottom half of Americans saw their share of the nation’s wealth drop from 4 percent to 2 percent.

“This report confirms what we already know: The very rich are getting much, much richer while the middle class is falling further and further behind, and being forced to take on outrageous levels of debt,” said Sanders. “The obscene level of income and wealth inequality in America is a profoundly moral issue that we cannot continue to ignore or sweep under the rug. A society cannot sustain itself when so few have so much while so many have so little. In the richest country on Earth, the time is long overdue for us to create a government and an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.”

CBO’s report made clear that by 2019, the richest half of Americans more than fully recovered from the losses of the Great Recession of 2008. Meanwhile, even before the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, families in the bottom half of the country continued to struggle with less wealth in 2019 than they had in 2007.

The findings also highlighted the persistence of the racial wealth gap and the growing burden of debt for working class Americans. According to the report, after the generation born in the 1940s, each succeeding generation has had less wealth and more debt than previous generations did at the same age. While families in the top 10 percent held more than two-thirds of all wealth, families in the bottom 25 percent on average had more debt than assets. By 2019, student loan debt was the largest component of total debt for families in the bottom 25 percent – greater than mortgage debt and credit card debt combined. Among those under the age of thirty-five, 60 percent of their debt was student loan debt.

CBO last published a report on trends in the distribution of family wealth in 2016, upon the request of Sanders, which analyzed trends from 1989 to 2013.

To read the full 2022 report, click here.