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A QUICK LOOK AT U.S. HOUSEHOLDS AND THEIR ASSETS
Press Release

December, 2008

Source: Asset Building and Low-Income Families, edited by Signe-Mary McKernan and Michael Sherraden, Urban Institute Press, 2008.  Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics are for 2004.

Most common financial assets in the United States: checking and savings accounts

Percentage of all families with a checking or savings account: 91

Percentage of families in bottom-fifth income ranking with a checking or savings account: 76

Median dollars in these accounts, all families: 3,800

Median dollars in these accounts, bottom-fifth families: 600

Most valuable financial asset in the United States: a retirement account

Percentage of all families with a retirement account: 50

Percentage of bottom-fifth families with a retirement account: 10

Median dollars in these accounts, all families: 35,200

Median dollars in these accounts, bottom-fifth families: 5,000

Most common nonfinancial asset in the United States: a car

Percentage of all families with a car: 86

Percentage of bottom-fifth families with a car: 65

Most valuable nonfinancial asset in the United States: a home (any kind of dwelling)

Percentage of all families that own a home: 69

Percentage of bottom-fifth families that own a home: 40

Median dollar value of home, all families: 160,000

Median dollar value of home, bottom-fifth families: 70,000

Median total debt, in dollars, held by homeowners: 95,800

Median total debt, in dollars, held by home renters: 7,800

Percentage of all families with debt greater than 40% of income: 12

Percentage of bottom-fifth families with debt greater than 40% of income: 27

Median net worth, in dollars, of bottom-fifth families: 7,500

Median net worth, in dollars, of middle-fifth families: 71,600

Median net worth, in dollars, of top-fifth families: 617,600

Growth in median net worth of bottom-fifth families, 1992–2004: 44% ($2,300)

Growth in median net worth of top-fifth families, 1992–2004: 94% ($298,500)

Percentage of asset-poor families1 in 1984 still so in 1994: more than 60

Percentage of income-poor families in 1984 still so in 1994: 42

                                                           

Total assets of families in lowest income quintile compared to middle fifth’s: 1:9

Total assets of families in lowest income quintile compared to top fifth’s: 1:48

Average assets, in dollars, of families headed by one adult: 83,400

Average assets, in dollars, of families with married or cohabitating adults: 265,800

Percentage of bottom-fifth dads whose sons remain in bottom fifth when they grow up: 42

Percentage of top-fifth dads whose sons fell to the bottom fifth: 5

Percentage of bottom-fifth sons who reached the top fifth: 5

Federal tax breaks, in dollars, subsidizing assets (fiscal 2008 estimate): 407 billion

Percentage of subsidies going to top-fifth families (fiscal 2005): nearly 90

Percentage of subsidies going to bottom three-fifth families (fiscal 2005): less than 3

Potential way to include low-income families in savings incentives: replace tax deductions (e.g., for mortgage interest) with refundable tax credits

1A family is asset poor if it does not have enough to live on for three months at the federal income poverty level.



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