But how much does this help the average guy or gal? Even including stocks held in retirement funds, which is where most non-rich people hold them, just about half of all households hold any stock, and fewer–about a third–hold stock worth more than $10,000 (see data note below for sources). Looking over time, the share of households with stock ownership actually fell from 2007 to 2013, from 53 percent to 49 percent.
The figure above shows how concentrated stock ownership has been from 1983-2010. About one-third of the value of the stock market is held by the top 1 percent of households. About half is held by the top 10 percent; about 90 percent is held by the top 20 percent. That leaves bupkis, as we say in the trade, for the middle class on down.
As the authors of the book “State of Working America” put it: “…the figure shows that the vast ‘democratization of the stock market’ since the 1980s—wherein the masses gained significant shares of the market through investment vehicles such as mutual funds, IRAs, and 401(k)s—never actually happened.”
Working families depend on paychecks, not stock portfolios. And while the stock market’s been on a tear, paychecks have been pretty flat. Lower gas prices will boost their buying power going forward, but while other pieces are falling into place, robust wage growth remains an important missing piece of our economic puzzle as 2015 gets underway.