A new report from the Federal Reserve highlights the bleak economic prospects for young Americans, concluding that millennials are in much worse financial shape than earlier generations (at the same age) in terms of their relative income and wealth. These findings are not encouraging for those concerned with the problem of growing inequality.
Despite the rise of populist anger in President Trump’s USA, inequality received little attention in 2018 from both major parties. But make no mistake, the story of early 21st century US is one of record inequality – and a growing divide between two groups: the haves and the have-nots. Forty percent of Americans hold negative financial wealth, averaging – $8,900 in assets, in the wealthiest country in the world, while another 20 percent hold just 2 percent of wealth. This means that 60 percent of the nation holds virtually no financial assets or holds negative assets in the wealthiest country in human history.
While nearly 60 percent of Americans agreed in late 2017 that there were “strong” or “very strong conflicts” between the rich and poor, many have long been under-informed about how deep the divide between rich and poor runs. Nowhere is this clearer than in the sentiment – shared by 54 percent of Americans – that the US is not divided between haves and have-nots.
To better understand the importance of affluence in how we think about inequality, I designed a survey to ask Americans about the extent to which competing factors influence their opinions of the economic divide. The poll, from late November 2018, was conducted by Qualtrics and includes a nationally representative, random sample of 1,132 Americans.
My poll sought to address two defining trends of our time. On the one hand, millions are struggling harder and harder to afford important services such as health care and higher education, which rank as…