Michael Bloomberg’s net worth is $64.2 billion, according to Forbes. This makes him the eighth wealthiest person in America. Wealth at that scale is hard to comprehend, and so it can be useful to compare it to something else. And if you are trying to highlight the high level of inequality in the country, the best thing to compare it to is the wealth held by those at the bottom of our society.
Every three years, the Federal Reserve releases its Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), which is the best household wealth survey in the country. In the latest SCF data, the bottom 38 percent of American households have a collective net worth of $11.4 billion, meaning that Michael Bloomberg owns nearly six times as much wealth as they do.
The bottom 38 percent of households is equal to around 47.8 million households. Since households have an average of 2.63 members, this is equal to about 125.7 million people. Thus, Bloomberg’s wealth is nearly six times greater than the wealth of the bottom 125 million people combined.
In fact, this 125-million figure actually understates how lopsided things are. The definition of wealth used in the official SCF publications includes cars as wealth. But academics that study wealth inequality, like Edward Wolff, often do not count cars as wealth because they are rapidly depreciating consumer durables that most people can’t really sell for the practical reason that they need a car to get around and live.
When you exclude cars from the definition of wealth, what you find is that the bottom 48 percent of households have less combined wealth than Michael Bloomberg does. This is 60.4 million households, or 158.9 million people.
Regardless of which measure you use, the upshot is clear: the United States is simultaneously home to some of the wealthiest people on earth and to a large propertyless underclass of people that have scarcely a penny to their names.