The net worth of the typical U.S. household grew at the fastest pace in more than three decades from 2019 through 2022, while low interest rates made it easier for households to pay their debts, according to a government report in October.

Wealth for the median household — the midpoint between the richest and poorest households — jumped 37% during those three years, the Federal Reserve reported, to nearly $193,000. The figures are adjusted for inflation.

The increase reflected primarily a jump in home values, higher stock prices, and a rise in the proportion of Americans who own homes and stocks.

The increased wealth helps explain the surprising durability of the U.S. economy this year and the consumer spending that powers about two-thirds of it. For at least a year, economists have been warning of a forthcoming recession. Yet the economy has kept chugging along.

Economic growth in the just-completed July-September quarter may have topped a robust 4% annual rate, boosted by strong consumer spending for physical goods as well as for services, a broad category that includes airline travel, entertainment, restaurant meals and numerous other experiences.

Government-provided stimulus payments in the aftermath of the pandemic also boosted households’ finances during those three years. The median value of checking and savings accounts and other cash holdings surged 30%.

With borrowing rates historically low, Americans dedicated just 13.4% of their incomes to paying off debt in 2022, the lowest such proportion since the Fed survey began in 1989.

Even so, substantial wealth inequality remained in place during the survey period, reflecting decades of widening disparities between the richest households and everyone else. Among the wealthiest 10% of households, median wealth reached nearly $3.8 million in 2022.

Christopher Rugaber

Associated Press


Mark Humphrey (AP)