Wealth

Americans say strong economy only helping the rich

Key Points
  • A poll by Pew Research Center found that 69% of Americans say the economy is helping the wealthy, while hurting the poor, those without college degrees and the middle class.
  • Responses also differed widely by income groups.
  • Nearly three quarters of upper-income households say the current economic conditions are "excellent/good."
  • A majority of lower-income earners say the economy is "only fair/poor."
Martin Barraud | Getty Images

A majority of Americans say the economy is only benefitting the wealthy, despite record-low unemployment and rising wages.

A poll by Pew Research Center found that 69% of Americans say the economy is helping the wealthy, while hurting the poor, those without college degrees and the middle class.

Responses also differed widely by income group. Nearly three-quarters of upper-income households say the current economic conditions are "excellent/good," while a majority of lower-income earners say the economy is "only fair/poor."

"To the extent that current economic conditions are helping particular groups, the public sees the benefits flowing mainly to the most well-off," according to Pew.

The responses suggest that even with a record-long economic expansion, a 50-year low unemployment rate of 3.5% and wage growth of more than 3% a year, many Americans don't feel like they are benefiting as much as those at the top.

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One reason may be the stock market gains. The wealthiest 10% of Americans own more than 85% of individually held stocks, and with the S&P 500 up over 20% this year, many Americans feel that their wages and home values haven't kept pace with the investments of the wealthy. Only 14% of middle-class households say the stock market affects their household finances.

While wages and jobs may be more plentiful, health-care costs also remain a source of economic anxiety for many households. More than half of lower-income households say they worry "almost daily" about paying their health-care bills. And health-care costs rank much higher than the "availability of jobs" when it comes to people's household finances.

Another driver is partisan politics. Increasingly, Americans' views of the economy are shaped by political party.

Virtually all of the increase in positive views of the economy since the 2016 election have been from Republicans. Still, lower-income Republicans are four times as likely as upper-income Republicans to give the economy a poor or fair rating.

The survey polled 6,878 U.S. adults from Sept. 16 to Sept. 29, and has a sampling error of plus or minus 1.6 percentage points.

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