The Corner

CHART: The Real Story Behind Income Inequality

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and other liberals have recently spread misinformation about income inequality. The truth is that most of the wealth in the United States is earned, not inherited as Sanders would have you believe. The above chart, which is based on information taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showcases exactly how little of America’s wealth is inherited. In fact, as NR roving correspondent Kevin D. Williamson writes

Wealth transfers — inheritances and gifts combined — constitute a small part of the holdings of the rich, whether you define “rich” in terms of income or net worth. For the top income quintile, gifts and inheritances amount to 13 percent of household wealth, according to research published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For the top wealth quintile, they amount to 16 percent. For the hated “1 percent,” inherited wealth accounts for about 15 percent of holdings. Contrary to the story the Left likes to tell about economic inequality in the United States, those numbers have gone down over recent decades — by almost half for the wealthiest Americans. Meanwhile, inherited money makes up 43 percent of the wealth of the lowest income group and 31 percent for the second-lowest. In case our would-be class warriors are having trouble running the numbers here, that means that inherited money on net reduces wealth inequality in the United States (measured as a ratio) rather than exacerbating it; eliminating inherited wealth would have approximately twice as much of a negative effect on modest households as on wealthy ones.

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