The Distribution of Net Wealth in the United States

Net wealth is looking like it will be a hot topic in the upcoming 2020 election season in the United States, with several candidates proposing to tax high net worth households to only partially pay for the explosion in federal government spending they are also proposing.

How at risk are you might be to these newly proposed taxes on wealth depends on what your household's net worth is and how your rank in net worth among all Americans. To help answer the first part of that question, we'll direct you to Bankrate's Net Worth Calculator, which will add up the value of your assets and subtract out your liabilities to estimate your household's net worth, assuming you haven't already done that math.

After you have that figure, plug it into the following tool, where we'll estimate your household's percentile ranking among all U.S. households, based on data for 2016 that was recently published by the U.S. Census Bureau. Hopefully, you'll be entering a positive number, but if not, our tool can handle if your household is underwater and you have to enter a negative value. If you're reading this article on a site that republishes our RSS news feed, please click through to our site to access a working version of the tool.

Household Net Wealth Data
Input Data Values
Your Household Net Worth

Estimated Household Net Worth Percentile Ranking
Calculated Results Values
Your Household's Net Worth Percentile

Now you have a fairly good sense of what percentage of all 129,600,000 U.S. households have a net worth that is either less than or equal to yours! The chart below shows our model for the distribution of net worth in the United States and how it compares to the data recorded by the U.S. Census.

Estimated U.S. Distribution of Net Worth, 2016

Overall, the tool is generally accurate to within about 1.5 percentiles of the reported data, which is pretty good given how we modeled the data, where we spliced two very different regressions to generate our results.

In addition to the Census Bureau's wealth distribution data, the Federal Reserve's Net Worth Percentile Calculator. Better still, if you want to find out how your household's net worth ranks among people in your age group, DQYDJ's Net Worth by Age Calculator has you covered!

Finally, we discovered that Microsoft (NYSE: MSFT) chairman Bill Gates had the highest reported net worth in 2016 thanks to the value of the shares he owns in the company he founded, which at $75 billion, would place him just off the top right end of the chart. The second highest net worth for an American belongs to Warren Buffett, whose accumulated net wealth over the last 49 years as the head of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A, BRK.B) would appear on the chart at $60.8 billion (equivalent to a natural logarithm of 24.8).

References

U.S. Census Bureau. Net Worth and Asset Ownership of Households: 2016. [Excel Spreadsheet]. 25 September 2019. Accessed 19 October 2019.

Forbes. The Full List Of Every American Billionaire 2016. [Online Article]. 1 March 2016.

Clementi, F.; Gallegati, M.; and Kaniadakis, G. A generalized statistical model for the distribution of wealth. Journal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment, 2012, P12006. https://doi.org/10.1088/1742-5468/2012/12/P12006. [Ungated PDF Document]. 6 December 2012.

Hozo, Stela Pudar; Djulbegovic, Benjamin; and Hozo, Iztok. Estimating the mean and variance from the median, range, and the size of a sample. BMC Medical Research Methodology, volume 5, Article number: 13 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2288-5-13. 20 April 2005.