FED 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances released, ... yea!

Yesterday’s timely release of the triennial FED Survey of Consumer Finances provides a trove of information on American consumers’ income and wealth. Watch the FED’s video/visualization (see above link) and your head will spin with fresh insights into income and wealth trends by demographic characteristics. The full article, which many would have expected in January 2015, provides more details. For example, median and mean wealth remain essentially unchanged between 2010 and 2013 after diving 40 percent and 15 percent, respectively, between 2007 and 2010. But the separation anxiety felt by the median (which better represents the middle because the mean is biased upward by values at the top) is acute. Mean wealth in 2013 was $534,600 more than 6.5 times the median of $81,200. Further, the median wealth of the top 10 percent of families by income ($1.1 million) is more than 20 times the median wealth of families in the middle of the income distribution.

But don’t get me wrong. I’m not rabidly against income or wealth inequality. I’m interested in measuring and tracking the trends so that we can all better understand what’s going on. The FED survey is one the best sources in that regard because the good folks at NORC (University of Chicago) who administer the survey go the extra mile to adequately sample the affluent. My comments below on Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century provide more context.