Pandemic Boosts American Household Wealth

Income climbed across all groups between 2019 and 2022, though gains were biggest toward the top — meaning that income inequality widened.

That made for a big difference between median income — the number at the midpoint among all households — and the average, which tallies all earnings and divides them by the number of households. Average income climbed 15 percent, one of the largest three-year pops on record.

Wealth inequality was more complicated. Because the rich hold such a large share of financial assets in America, wealth gaps tend to grow in absolute terms when stocks, bonds and houses are climbing in price. True to that, wealth climbed much more in dollar terms for rich families.

But in the three years covered by the survey, growth in wealth was actually the largest in percentage terms for poorer families. People in the bottom quarter had a net worth of $3,500 in 2022, up from $400 in 2019. Among families in the top 10 percent, median net worth climbed to $3.79 million, up from $3.01 million three years earlier.

Because of the way the data is measured, it is difficult to break out just how much pandemic-related payments would have mattered to the figures. To the extent that families saved one-time checks and other help they received during the pandemic, those would have been included in the measures of net worth.

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