The riotous market swings that have whipped up frothy peaks of anxiety over the last week — bringing the major indexes down more than 10 percent from their high — have virtually no impact on the income or wealth of most families. The reason: They own little or no stock.
A whopping 84 percent of all stocks owned by Americans belong to the wealthiest 10 percent of households. And that includes everyone’s stakes in pension plans, 401(k)’s and individual retirement accounts, as well as trust funds, mutual funds and college savings programs like 529 plans.
“For the vast majority of Americans, fluctuations in the stock market have relatively little effect on their wealth, or well-being, for that matter,” said Edward N. Wolff, an economist at New York University who recently published new research on the topic.
Both Republicans and Democrats have promoted the idea that a rising stock market broadly lifts Americans’ fortunes. When there was a parade of market rallies, President Trump asked, “How’s your 401(k) doing?”