When we talk about rising income inequality, we usually talk about the skyrocketing pay of the top 1 percent. And that’s quite proper, since that’s the main driver of increasing inequality.
But new census data shows that when it comes to net worth—which is basically total wealth—the biggest change has been at the bottom. Even after taking some lumps immediately after the recession, the well-off had recovered and even made some gains by 2011. But the poor have been devastated. Their median net worth has always been pretty close to zero, but by 2011 it had plummeted to $-6,029. On average, poor families were in the hole to the tune of $6,000, an astronomical and completely debilitating number to someone with barely poverty-level earnings.
In other words, when it comes to wealth, the rich really are getting richer, and the poor really are getting poorer. A lot poorer.