U.S. Net Worth – 2008 Household Asset Report – Median Net Worth

Household net worth is the concept that the U.S. Census Bureau describes in their report of Household Net Worth and Assets. The most recent version of this report was issued in April 2008 and is located here:


From page 1:

“This report compares the levels of wealth and asset ownership, such as home equity, savings accounts, certificates of deposit, stocks and mutual funds, and vehicle ownership, by various socioeconomic factors, including monthly household income, in late 1999/early 2000 and late 2002.”

A couple of important definitions:

Household. A household consists of all people who occupy a housing unit.

Net worth. The household net worth estimates shown in this report are based on the sum of the market value of assets owned by every member of the household minus liabilities (secured or unsecured) owed by household members.

Median net worth.The median net worth is the amount that divides households into two equal groups, one having net worth less than that amount and theother having net worth above that amount.

Here we have a graph with median net worth data since 1984 (let’s ignore the GDP data for now):

Median Net Worth Graph

Median household net worth remained statistically unchanged from 2000 at $58,988 to 2002 at $58,905. This means that 1/2 of U.S. households have a net worth lower than $58,905, and 1/2 are higher.

So does this chart make you feel better or worse about your personal situation? It makes me feel better because we are above the median household net worth, so I guess we could be doing worse. But it always feels like we should be doing better!

Never satisfied? Human nature? Both I suppose…

2 thoughts on “U.S. Net Worth – 2008 Household Asset Report – Median Net Worth”

  1. As you so rightly point out in your next post, being above the median does not make one “above average” where income and net worth are concerned.

    I think of this as Lake Wobegon in reverse. About 80% of us are below average. When a news story reports that the average income or average net worth has risen, most of us take that as suggesting good news for us.

    Wrong! It may have little or nothing to do with our realities, or the realities of most Americans. It sounds really good, but if it is anything like most of the reality in the past 10 or 15 years, all that is going on is increases for the top 5% or 10% of us, with little effect on the rest. (“Little effect” also includes any “trickle down” effects. It simply doesn’t flow that direction!

    As Edward Wolff so wisely pointed out a few years ago, rather few of us have sufficient assets other than our homes to support ourselves at the federal poverty level for even 3 months, much less to sustain our current lifestyles for a year. We ignored that observation.

  2. Agreed, thank you for your observations. The shenanigans of the super wealthy in this country (politicians and their backers) are leading us all to a financial and retirement tsunami. No pensions, skyrocketing healthcare, rapid outsourcing, and bankrupt government welfare programs. Needless to say it is disconcerting, and I often wonder if I am being an unjustified pessimist.

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