The Wealth Gap Is Widening

Stephanie Peterson

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a varying impact on different aspects of the economy, with household wealth being one of them. While some sectors of the economy saw significant losses, others remained resilient, leading to changes in household wealth, according to the Federal Reserve.

The pandemic resulted in a significant surge in savings, with deposits seeing unprecedented gains. Asset accumulation, driven by asset-price increases, was the main source of wealth accumulation during the pandemic. The distribution of household wealth during the pandemic saw a slight increase in the concentration of wealth for the top 1% of households, and the bottom 50% of households saw a 30% increase in their wealth, but their share of the total wealth gain was only 3.3%.

Lower-income households saw slightly slower wealth growth than high-income households. However, the Distributional Financial Accounts (DFA) projections do not explicitly take into account the unique circumstances of the pandemic, including the large amount of fiscal support and reduced consumption that has resulted in a significant amount of excess savings. The DFA projections are based on historical relationships between macroeconomic aggregates and survey distributions, and therefore, alternative scenarios are presented for how deposits may be allocated to bound the distribution of household wealth in the quarters since 2019.

While the DFA estimates provide a starting point for studying wealth during COVID-19, major aspects of the pandemic, such as excess savings, are not accounted for in these estimations, making the projections less precise. And more bad news is coming from Silicon Valley.
Cartoon caricature of a Caucasian man swimming in debt, bills, and taxesPhoto byBrian Penny

Silicon Valley's Widening Wealth Gap

Silicon Valley is one of the wealthiest regions in the United States, if not the world. With a thriving tech industry and the headquarters of many major corporations, it's no surprise that the area boasts an impressive amount of wealth. However, a new study by the Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies has highlighted the vast disparities in wealth, income, and other economic measures in the region. According to the report, the top 10% of households in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties held 66% of the investable assets in the region last year.

The report also revealed that just eight households held more wealth than the bottom 50% of nearly half a million households in the area. These statistics are staggering and reveal a severe wealth inequality issue in Silicon Valley. This inequality is even more pronounced than in the United States overall or globally, with the top 1% of households holding 48 times more of the total wealth than the bottom 50%. This is compared to 23 times nationally and globally, according to the report.

And this is before taking into account the recent waves of tech layoffs hitting Silicon Valley tech giants like Meta, Alphabet, and Apple. These layoffs come at a time of steep inflation, where everything from houses to eggs and gas are unaffordable for many.

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