Nov 1, 2017 1:00 pm

How wealth inequality has changed in the U.S. since the Great Recession, by race, ethnicity and income

The Great Recession of 2007-2009 triggered a sharp, prolonged decline in the wealth of American families, and an already large wealth gap between white households and black and Hispanic households widened further in its immediate aftermath. But the racial and ethnic wealth gap has evolved differently for families at different income levels, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances.

Among lower-income families, the gap between white households and their black and Hispanic counterparts shrank by about half from 2007 to 2016. But among middle-class families, it increased and shows no sign of retreating. (There are an insufficient number of observations in the SCF data to report on upper-income black and Hispanic families separately.)

Overall, American household wealth has not fully recovered from the Great Recession. In 2016, the median wealth of all U.S. households was $97,300, up 16% from 2013 but well below median wealth before the recession began in late 2007 ($139,700 in 2016 dollars). And even though overall racial and ethnic inequality in wealth narrowed from 2013 to 2016, the gap remains large. In 2016, the median wealth of white households was $171,000. That’s 10 times the wealth of black households ($17,100) – a larger gap than in 2007 – and eight times that of Hispanic households ($20,600), about the same gap as in 2007. (Asians and other racial groups are not separately identified in the SCF data.)

Here are some key trends in household wealth across income tiers and racial and ethnic groups. In this analysis, we categorized families by their household income, after adjusting their incomes for family size. Middle-income families have size-adjusted incomes between two-thirds and twice the national median size-adjusted income. Lower-income families have a size-adjusted household income less than two-thirds the median and upper-income families more than twice the median.

About this analysis

This analysis is based on data from the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), conducted triennially from 1983 to 2016 (updated Oct. 12, 2017). The surveys from 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016 span the duration of the Great Recession from December 2007 to June 2009 and the economic recovery thereafter.

The findings by race and ethnicity in this analysis are not comparable to previous analyses by Pew Research Center due to revisions in the racial and ethnic classifications in the SCF. There are an insufficient number of observations in the SCF data to report on upper-income black and Hispanic families separately. Also, Asians and other racial groups are not separately identified in the SCF data.

Wealth, or net worth, is the difference between the value of a family’s assets (such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, homes, cars and businesses) and its debts. Wealth is accumulated over time and differs from household income, or the annual inflow of wages, interests, profits and other sources of earnings. Wealth gaps between whites, blacks and Hispanics have always been much greater than income gaps and provide an alternative perspective on racial and ethnic inequality in household well-being.

In this analysis, we categorized families by their household income, after adjusting their incomes for family size. Middle-income families have size-adjusted incomes between two-thirds and twice the national median size-adjusted income. Lower-income families have a size-adjusted household income less than two-thirds the median and upper-income families more than twice the median.

For a family of three in 2016, a household income of about $42,500 to $127,600 qualifies as middle income, based on SCF data. Lower-income households live on less than $42,500 and upper-income households earn more than $127,600. This methodology results in 47% of America’s families being classified as middle income in 2016. About one-third of families (32%) were lower income and 21% were upper income.

The terms families and households are used interchangeably in the analysis (more formally, the SCF measures the wealth of primary economic units). Families are grouped according to the race and ethnicity of the head of the household. Ratios and other calculations are done before underlying estimates are rounded.

The Center has explored the size and economic well-being of the American middle class in greater depth in previous reports using data from the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey.

1Among lower- and middle-income households, white families have four times as much wealth as black families and three times as much as Hispanic families. In 2016, lower-income white households had a net worth of $22,900, compared with only $5,000 for black households and $7,900 for Hispanic households in this income tier. To some degree, this reflects differences in homeownership rates among families – 49% for lower-income whites, versus 31% for lower-income blacks and 30% for lower-income Hispanics. It is also important to note that only 25% of white households are in the lower-income tier, compared with about 50% each of black and Hispanic households. Thus, low levels of wealth are much more prevalent among black and Hispanic households than among white households.

About the same level of wealth inequality exists among middle-income households. White households in the middle-income tier had a median net worth of $154,400 in 2016, compared with $38,300 for middle-income blacks and $46,000 for middle-income Hispanics. Homeownership rates among middle-income blacks (53%) and Hispanics (60%) are also less than among middle-income whites (76%). Half of white households, 42% of black households and 40% of Hispanic households are in the middle-income tier.

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Topics: Wealth, Income, Race and Ethnicity

Oct 31, 2017 1:30 pm

Most think the ‘American dream’ is within reach for them

Despite persistently low levels of public satisfaction with the state of the nation, most Americans say they have achieved the “American dream” or are on their way to achieving it. Only about one-in-five (17%) say the American dream is “out of reach” for their family.

The American dream means different things to different people, however. Far fewer Americans say “becoming wealthy” is essential to the American dream than say the same about personal freedom and a good family life.

Overall, 36% of U.S. adults say their family has achieved the American dream, while another 46% say they are “on their way” to achieving it, according to an August survey by Pew Research Center. (The survey asked people about the “American dream,” as they define it.) People who say they have already achieved the American dream are generally older, more affluent and better-educated than those who say they are on their way to achieving the American dream and those who say it’s out of reach.

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Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Lifestyle

Oct 31, 2017 11:31 am

Use of Spanish declines among Latinos in major U.S. metros

More than 37 million Latinos in the U.S. speak Spanish at home, making it the country’s most common non-English language. But while the number of Latinos who speak Spanish at home continues to increase due to the overall growth of the Latino population, the share of Latinos who speak the language has declined over the past decade or so: 73% of Latinos spoke Spanish at home in 2015, down from 78% in 2006, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data.

The national decline in Spanish use among Latinos extended to all of the top 25 U.S. metro areas with the largest population of Latinos ages 5 and older. The San Antonio-New Braunfels and Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale metro areas had some of the largest declines, with the shares who spoke Spanish in each declining by 9 percentage points. Some of the smallest declines came in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metro areas, where the share who spoke Spanish at home declined by about 2 percentage points each from 2006 to 2015. (Click here for a sortable table of Spanish use by metro area.)

Despite this drop-off in use, most Latinos agree that speaking Spanish is a vital skill. In a 2011 Pew Research Center survey, nearly all Latinos said it was important that the next generation of Latinos in the U.S. speak Spanish. Yet many Latinos (71%) say it’s not necessary to speak Spanish to be considered Latino, a 2015 survey found.

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Topics: Hispanic/Latino Identity, Language

Oct 30, 2017 10:01 am

How countries around the world view democracy, military rule and other political systems

This article is also available in: Deutschespañol and français.

A 38-nation Pew Research Center survey conducted this spring found reasons for optimism as well as concern about the future of democracy around the world. In every nation polled, more than half said representative democracy is a very or somewhat good way to run their country. But the survey also found openness, to varying degrees, to some nondemocratic forms of government.

Use our interactive feature below to compare views of political systems in each nation surveyed. It’s followed by six findings the Center found especially striking.


Explore global opinions on political systems by country


Here are six key findings:

1About nine-in-ten Swedes (92%) say representative democracy is a good way of governing their country, the highest share of any country in the survey. A majority of Swedes (57%) also say direct democracy – in which citizens, not elected officials, vote directly on major issues – is a good way to govern. People in Sweden are among the most likely of any in the survey to say they are satisfied with the way democracy is working in their country: About eight-in-ten Swedes (79%) hold this view, the same share as in India and Tanzania.

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Topics: Trust in Institutions, International Governments and Institutions, Democracy, Political Attitudes and Values

Oct 27, 2017 9:53 am

500 years after the Reformation, 5 facts about Protestants around the world

A statue of Martin Luther in Market Square in Wittenberg, Germany. In 1517 Luther nailed his 95 theses to a door of nearby Schlosskirche church, helping to spark the Protestant Reformation. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
A statue of Martin Luther in Market Square in Wittenberg, Germany. In 1517 Luther nailed his 95 theses to a door of the nearby Schlosskirche, helping to spark the Protestant Reformation. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

This year, Protestants will commemorate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. While the exact date of the anniversary is debated, it’s conventionally commemorated on Oct. 31, when Martin Luther publicly posted his criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church in Wittenberg, Germany, precipitating an eventual schism with Rome throughout much of Northern and Central Europe.

Five centuries later, global Protestant Christianity looks very different than it did at its inception. Here is a look at some key facts about Protestants around the world through data collected over time by Pew Research Center:

1Globally, Protestants made up 37% of Christians in 2010. That’s a smaller share than Catholics, who comprised 50% of Christians around the world, but substantially larger than the percentage of Orthodox Christians, who represented 12%.

While the Protestant Reformation began in Germany, in 2o10, nearly nine-in-ten (87%) of the world’s Protestants lived outside of Europe, particularly in countries that make up the “global south,” that is, developing nations mostly in the Southern Hemisphere. In fact, there were more Protestants living in Nigeria that year than in Germany. The largest share of Protestants around the world (roughly 20%) lived in the U.S., which was, during the colonial era, largely settled by Puritans and other Protestants from Europe.

2The share of Protestants among U.S. adults is in decline, falling from 51% in 2007 to 47% in 2014. The decline is most pronounced among people who identify with mainline Protestant denominations, such as the United Methodist Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The share of mainline Protestants fell from 18% in 2007 to 15% of U.S. adults in 2014. By comparison, declines among evangelical Protestants have been more modest (26% in 2007 to 25% in 2014). This downward trend is part of a broader decline in the share of Christians in the U.S., from 78% of adults in 2007 to 71% in 2014. Net losses for Christians have meant net gains for religiously unaffiliated adults, who in 2014 accounted for 23% of the adult population, up from 16% in 2007.

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Topics: Evangelical Protestants and Evangelicalism, Religious Affiliation, Religious Beliefs and Practices

Oct 26, 2017 3:10 pm

Nearly half of Americans have a family member or close friend who’s been addicted to drugs

It’s common for Americans to know someone with a current or past drug addiction – and it’s an experience that mostly cuts across demographic and partisan lines.

A Pew Research Center survey conducted in August found that 46% of U.S. adults say they have a family member or close friend who is addicted to drugs or has been in the past. Identical shares of men and women say this (46% each), as do identical shares of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents when compared with Republicans and Republican leaners (also 46% each). There are no statistically significant differences between whites (46%), Hispanics (50%) and blacks (52%).

Data from the federal government provide context for these survey findings. In 2016, about 7.4 million Americans ages 12 and older (2.7%) reported behavior in the past year that meets the criteria of an “illicit drug use disorder,” according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). These criteria include a drug user making “unsuccessful attempts to cut down on use” or continuing the habit “despite physical health or emotional problems associated with use.”

The illicit drugs included in the SAMHSA survey are marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, methamphetamine and the misuse of prescription drugs, such as pain relievers or stimulants. In 2016, the most common illicit drug use disorders were related to marijuana (estimated to affect about 4 million people ages 12 and older) and prescription pain relievers (about 1.8 million). Opioids, which have become a focus of the Trump administration, can come in the form of street drugs, such as heroin, or prescription pain relievers.

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Topics: Drugs

Oct 26, 2017 10:01 am

5 facts about Muslim Millennials in the U.S.

The Muslim population in the United States is younger than the U.S. population at large. In fact, while Millennials make up 32% of all U.S. adults, they account for roughly half of American Muslim adults (52%).

Muslim Millennials were born from 1981 to 1999 and generally came of age after 9/11. Most have transitioned to adulthood, and attended or graduated college. Some have embarked on careers or begun raising families.

Here are five facts about Muslim Millennials:

1While U.S. Muslims overall are largely an immigrant population (58%), Muslim Millennials are somewhat less likely to have been born abroad than are older Muslim adults (52% versus 64%), according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey. (Within the general public, 15% of all Millennials are immigrants.) Racially and ethnically, 40% of Muslim Millennials identify as white (including Arabs and people of Middle Eastern ancestry), 29% as Asian (including people of Pakistani or Indian descent), 17% as black and 11% as Hispanic. Muslim Millennials are less likely to be married than are older Muslim adults (36% versus 71%), though they are roughly as likely to be married as Millennials in the general public (30%). And although Muslim Millennials are less likely than older Muslim adults to have at least a bachelor’s degree (24% versus 38%), they are about as likely to have one as Millennials in the general public (27%).

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Topics: Muslims and Islam, Millennials, Religious Affiliation, Generations and Age

Oct 25, 2017 11:30 am

How Americans, Mexicans see each other differs for those closer to border

The border city of Tijuana, in the Mexican state of Baja California, as seen from the U.S. (Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images)
The city of Tijuana, Mexico, along its border with the U.S. (Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images)

Amid tense relations between the United States and Mexico, one of the factors affecting the way Mexicans and Americans view each other is proximity to the border. But border-dwellers in the two countries don’t lean the same way: Americans living in parts of southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are less favorable toward Mexico than Americans further from the border, while in Mexico those near the boundary between the two countries are more positive toward the U.S. than other Mexicans.

Nearly six-in-ten Americans (57%) living within 200 miles of the border hold a favorable view of Mexico, compared with 66% in other parts of the U.S. The reverse is true on the Mexican side: 41% of Mexicans who live within 200 miles of the U.S. border have a favorable view of the U.S. compared with only 28% of those who live further away.

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Topics: U.S. Global Image and Anti-Americanism, Mexico, Latin America

Oct 25, 2017 6:59 am

Many minority students go to schools where at least half of their peers are their race or ethnicity

Blacks and Hispanics make up 15.5% and 25.4% of the U.S. public school population, respectively. Yet large shares in each group attend schools where their own race or ethnicity accounts for at least half of students, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Department of Education data.

Meanwhile, whites, who continue to make up by far the largest share of the U.S. public school population, tend to go to schools where half or more of students are white.

In 2014, the most recent year for which data are available, 44.1% of black public elementary and secondary school students attended schools where at least half of their peers were also black. Among Hispanics, 56.7% went to schools where at least half of students were also Hispanic. Read More

Topics: Educational Attainment, Education, Race and Ethnicity

Oct 24, 2017 2:16 pm

Understanding Pew Research Center’s political typology

Pew Research Center’s new political typology report is our seventh such study since 1987. Like its predecessors, this year’s typology is an effort to go beyond partisanship and categorize people based on the combination of political values they hold as a way of better understanding the complexities of the current political landscape.

The 2017 typology study is a companion to our recent study on the growing partisan divide in American politics. While the first report documents how gaps between Republicans and Democrats have grown over time, the typology provides a look at internal divisions within both the Republican and Democratic coalitions. Both reports draw on a pair of surveys conducted with a total of 5,009 adults nationwide this summer.

The typology divides the public into eight political groups – four largely Republican groups and four largely Democratic groups – along with a ninth group of less politically engaged Americans, whom we call Bystanders. See where you fit in the typology by taking our quiz.

Who are the political typology groups?

Core Conservatives: In many ways the most traditional group of Republicans. Overwhelmingly support smaller government and lower corporate taxes, and a majority think U.S. involvement in the global economy is a good thing.
Country First Conservatives: Older and less educated than other GOP-leaning typology groups. Unhappy with the nation’s course, highly critical of immigrants and wary of U.S. involvement abroad.
Market Skeptic Republicans: Stand out from other Republican-oriented groups in their negative views of the economic system. Skeptical of banks and financial institutions, and support raising taxes on corporations
New Era Enterprisers: Optimistic about state of the nation and its future. Younger and somewhat less overwhelmingly white than other GOP typology groups. Most say U.S. involvement in the global economy is a good thing and that immigrants strengthen the nation.
Devout and Diverse: Majority nonwhite, highly financially stressed, religiously observant and older than other Democratic-leaning groups. The most politically mixed typology group, with about a quarter leaning Republican. Take somewhat more conservative views than other Democratic-leaning groups on a number of issues.
Disaffected Democrats: Majority-minority group and highly financially stressed. Have positive feelings about the Democratic Party and its leaders, but are highly cynical about politics, government and how things are going in U.S.
Opportunity Democrats: Less affluent, less liberal and less politically engaged than Solid Liberals, though the two groups agree on many major issues. Believe most people can get ahead if they work hard.
Solid Liberals: Largest group in the Democratic coalition. Highly educated and largely white. Express liberal attitudes on virtually every issue. Say the nation should be active in world affairs.
Bystanders: A relatively young, less educated group that pays little or no attention to politics.

Here are answers to some questions that are often asked about the political typology.

Do the groups in the political typology correspond to groups in the real world?

Some typology groups are more immediately recognizable as real-world groups than others. In particular, the most ideologically consistent groups, Solid Liberals and Core Conservatives, are familiar anchors of the two parties. To some degree, this is because they are the most politically engaged groups – their political “voices” are louder than those of other groups.

Mirroring some of the internal party divisions in the Republican Party playing out today, Country First Conservatives differ from Core Conservatives in key ways (though the two groups are similarly strong in their GOP partisanship). They are unhappy with the nation’s course, highly critical of immigrants and deeply wary of U.S. global involvement.

Less politically engaged groups, such as Disaffected Democrats or Devout and Diverse – both within the Democratic coalition – don’t necessarily correspond to organized groups in the political world. One reason is that politics is a peripheral concern for many people, especially for people who don’t fit comfortably within either party. The relatively low level of interest in politics, as well as a sense of futility regarding the ability to influence political decisions, reduces the incentive to organize and act, even when a relatively large number of people may have similar political views. But this can be a vicious cycle – people who feel they are “outside” of politics may feel that nobody shares their views. The typology shows that is not the case.

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Topics: Political Typology