Inequality Update: Who Gains When Income Grows?

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By Pavlina R. Tcherneva

Since the 1980s, economic recoveries in the United States have been delivering the vast majority of income growth to the wealthiest households. Little has changed when considering the distribution of average income growth in the current recovery (up to 2015) between the bottom 90 percent and top 10 percent of families, with or without capital gains. Although average real income for the bottom 90 percent of households is no longer shrinking, these families still capture a historically small proportion of that growth—only between 18 percent and 22 percent. The growing economy continues to deliver the most benefits to the wealthiest families.

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