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Educational Household Wealth Trends and Wealth Inequality

Line chart showing cumulative changes in average real wealth by education

SOURCES: Distributional Financial Accounts and Institute for Economic Equity’s calculations.

NOTE: Vertical bars indicate recessions.

This figure shows the average real wealth of families with a given educational achievement. On average, families headed by someone with at least a bachelor’s degree have greater wealth than similarly educated families did in the past. College-headed families in 2020 had 83% more wealth on average than similar families in 1989. The growth has not been as pronounced for less educated families; those headed by someone with less than a high school diploma had less wealth, on average, than similar families in 1989 in most quarters.

Line chart outlining average real wealth gaps by education

SOURCES: Distributional Financial Accounts and Institute for Economic Equity’s calculations.

NOTE: Vertical bars indicate recessions.

Given the fast growth in average wealth for college-headed families relative to families who are not college educated, real educational family wealth gaps have grown. As of the third quarter of 2020, the ratio between families headed by someone with some college education (but no four-year degree) and families headed by a college graduate was 30 cents per $1. The ratio between someone with a high school diploma and a bachelor’s-level education was 23 cents per $1, and the ratio between someone with less than a high school diploma and a bachelor’s-level education was 9 cents per $1.

Bar chart showing average real wealth by education for Q3 2020 by edcuational level obtained

SOURCES: Distributional Financial Accounts and Institute for Economic Equity’s calculations.

This bar chart shows the average wealth for families headed by someone with a four-year college degree, some college but no degree, at most a high school diploma and less than a high school diploma in the third quarter of 2020. In the third quarter of 2020, the college group had about $1.2 million, $1.3 million, and $1.5 million more family wealth, on average, than the some college, high school, and no high school groups, respectively.