Net Worth in the United States: Zooming in on the Top Centiles

September 5th, 2020 by 

In this article, we estimate net worth in the United States, including for the very top percentiles - up to the top .1% of the wealthy.  Our estimates are for 2013 SCF data at selected Net Worth centiles - first at each decile, then at the 95, 99, 99.5 and 99.9 percent levels.

Editor: This page is now outdated; you can find the newest numbers here. We have now released a calculator for net worth quantiles by age!

Ever since the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances was released (in September of 2014), we've been looking forward to zooming in a bit closer to the numbers in their (much appreciated) release of microdata.  Once we wrapped our head around how they have 5 imputations to turn 6,026 data points into 31,130, then further remove 11 ultra high (read: Forbes list high) net worths due to identity issues, we were able to wade into the shallow end with a basic breakdown of American Wealth.

Net Worth in the United States at Selected Points

We can tell you this: if you had no debts and no assets in 2013 (a clean slate!) with a perfect net worth of $0, you were in the 11.8th percentile of net worths.  If you could muster 60 cents (say... in your couch cushions) but had no other assets or debts?  Well, count yourself in the 12.9th percentile.  And if you were a legitimate millionaire, with exactly $1,000,000 in net worth in 2013, you were in the 90.5th percentile.  That's right - fewer than 10% of Americans are millionaires, by our estimate (and by the Fed's definition of Net Worth - please see their summary variables for more detail).

Here's an even more detailed take on some of the hot-button net worth percentiles:

Net worth in the united states for many percentiles in 2013And in table format:

Wealth PercentileNet Worth

Methodology/Source for Net Worth in the United States

All numbers calculated from 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances microdata.  When we read in the SCF cookbook that for most purposes, averaging across the five imputed data sets was acceptable, we made the executive decision to follow that methodology for this piece (and we'll likely do that for more articles in this series).

That said, we won't try to compute an error range, but we believe these numbers to be reasonably accurate and compare favorably (we're around 50% higher, though, in the prime areas) with Emmanual Saez and Gabriel Zucman's estimates for 2012.

What's Next?

We have a few ideas where to go next with this data, but please let us know if you have anything in mind.  The easiest way to figure out what summary data is available is to use the online SCF extract data analysis tool, provided by Berkeley (thank you!).  If the summary variables aren't detailed enough, you can identify individual questions in the 2013 SCF Code Book (warning: 45,000 lines of text... do not print it!).

Anyway, do the net worths reported approximate what you were thinking?  Did you expect Americans to have more?  Less?  How do you think things will change between now and 2016?  2019?



PK started DQYDJ in 2009 to research and discuss finance and investing and help answer financial questions. He's expanded DQYDJ to build visualizations, calculators, and interactive tools.

PK lives in New Hampshire with his wife, kids, and dog.

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