By the Numbers: The Rich and Other Americans; February 2001; Scientific American Magazine; by Rodger Doyle; 1 Page(s)
F. Scott Fitzgerald was right when he said that the "very rich... Are different from you and me." Judging by the Forbes 400 richest Americans, they are older than the average American (by 12 years), better educated (more than twice as many are college graduates), whiter (95 percent compared with 71 percent for the country as a whole) and, as has been said, they have better teeth. But like the rest of us, the rich have their ups and downs. In 1929 the top 1 percent held a 44 percent share of all personal assets, but by 1976 their share had sunk to 20 percent; in 1998 it was 36 percent. Typically the share held by the rich rises when stock prices appreciate and the price of housing, the preeminent middle-class asset, rises less swiftly-precisely what happened in the 1990s.
The single biggest reason for the spectacular increase in average assets of the Forbes 400 is the growth of electronic technology, based not only in the computer, software and Internet sectors but also in retailing, finance and mass media. In 1998 the Forbes 400 accounted for an estimated 2.6 percent of total personal net worth held by all Americans, compared with 33 percent held by the remaining one million households in the top 1 percent. The 9.2 million households in the next 9 percent held 34 percent, and the bottom 92.3 million households held 31 percent.