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Good Graph Friday: Wealth gap widened in recession

April 1, 2011 at 7:47 AM ET

Economic Policy Institute /

The Great Recession cost Americans trillions of dollars in accumulated wealth, as home values plummeted, retirement accounts shrank and Americans struggled with joblessness and other woes.

Few were immune to the big losses, but that doesn’t mean the pain was felt equally.

A new analysis from the Economic Policy Institute finds that the richest 20 percent of Americans saw their share of all Americans’ wealth increase by 2.2 percentage points between 2007 and 2009. The remaining four-fifth of Americans saw their wealth decline by the same amount.

The top 20 percent of Americans by wealth controlled 87.2 percent of all wealth as of 2009, according to an analysis by EPI, a liberal-leaning research group. That left the rest of the country with 12.8 percent of all wealth.

The top 20 percent did see their wealth shrink between 2007 and 2009, but not by as much as the rest of the country. EPI said that group had a 16 percent average annualized decline in household wealth, while everyone else saw a 25 percent average annualized decline in household wealth during the same period.

The recession officially ran from December 2007 to June 2009.

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