Educational Household Wealth Trends and Wealth Inequality

Line chart showing cumulative changes in average real wealth by education level

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

NOTES: Quarterly data run from the third quarter of 1989 to first quarter of 2022. College represents families with at least a bachelor's degree; other education levels represent the families’ highest completed education. 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 2022 had 95% more wealth on average than similar families in 1989. Growth has not been as pronounced for less educated families; in most quarters, those headed by someone with less than a high school diploma had less wealth, on average, than similar families in 1989, and they had 21% less wealth as of the first quarter of 2022.

Line chart displaying average real wealth gaps by education level

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

NOTES: Quarterly data run from the third quarter of 1989 to first quarter of 2022. College represents families with at least a bachelor's degree; other education levels represent the families’ highest completed education. 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 over the past three decades. As of the first quarter of 2022, the ratio between families headed by someone with some college education (but no four-year degree) and families headed by a college graduate was 32 cents per $1. The ratio between someone with a high school diploma and a bachelor’s-level education was 24 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 displaying average real wealth of families with a given educational achievement for first quarter 2022

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

NOTE: College represents families with at least a bachelor's degree; other education levels represent the families’ highest completed education.

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 first quarter of 2022. In that quarter, the college group had about $1.3 million, $1.5 million and $1.8 million more family wealth, on average, than the some college, high school, and no high school groups, respectively. With the exception of the no high school group, average real family wealth levels were very near all-time highs.

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