17 Pages

The evidence

In this chapter, I offer substantial evidence to discern whether and how the Wealth Privilege model operates, particularly along the three wealth pathways. To illustrate the escalating privileges, I consider how households, depending on their wealth status, experience key elements of each pathway. To do this, I examine these factors by household-wealth quintiles. Though this appraisal focuses on socioeconomic class, I do not neglect racialized status. I examine the evidence by racialized group to show how the forces of wealth privilege are deepening the racial wealth divide as well. One issue in Chapter 4 must await a later discussion: how current federal wealth policies influence the accumulation of wealth and its growing concentration. Given the complexity of these policies, it makes sense to devote a separate chapter to them. In looking for evidence of wealth privilege, I could examine the most current

snapshot, using the 2013 survey. Yet, I believe the 2007 survey serves this purpose better, for two reasons. First, the 2007 survey reflects an economy at the peak of a six-year expansion that raised both household income and wealth. In contrast, 2013 culminates a prolonged period of economic distress and financial turmoil. Though the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, the economy was still languishing with high unemployment and mediocre economic growth several years after. Household wealth still remained 15 percent below its peak in 2007. Clearly, the earlier survey examines an economy in apparent good health. Second, both housing and stock prices were at near peak levels in 2007. By 2013, stock prices had fully recovered from their fall in 2008, while housing prices remained depressed. Since home values represent a far more egalitarian source of wealth, these disparate trends likely exaggerate the wealth disparities in 2013. On both counts, I believe the earlier survey better reflects a “normal” economy as well as a more representative snapshot of household wealth.