Mar 24, 2021 - Economy

Most investors now say the stock market is "rigged"

llustration of a hand with strings tied to the fingers, manipulating a market trend line.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nearly 50% of Americans now say the stock market is "rigged against individual investors," a new survey from and YouGov shows — and surprisingly a solid majority of those investing in the stock market (56%) believe the market is rigged as well.

Why it matters: Underlying the results is "widening wealth inequality where young people in particular just may not have a sense of hope or fairness in the markets," Greg McBride,'s chief financial analyst, told Axios.

  • "This recession, even more so than most recessions, has widened the gap between the haves and the have-nots, and the recovery that we’re seeing is very much a K-shaped recovery, the fortunes of some are worse than ever, the fortunes of others are better than ever."

In addition to the growing wealth inequality seen since last March, people are also talking much more about the subject, says former Federal Reserve economist Vincent Reinhart.

  • "If we’re talking more about wealth inequality, it wouldn’t be surprising that that conversation included, 'What is it about the system that prevents a more equal distribution of wealth?'" Reinhart, now chief economist at Mellon, a subsidiary of $2 trillion asset manager BNY Mellon, tells Axios.
  • "One part of it is if you start with a pool of wealth, you have something to accumulate more wealth upon. If you start without one, you don’t."

Details: Just 13% of those surveyed (more than 2,500 U.S. adults, weighted by quotas to provide a nationally representative sample) disagreed with the idea that the stock market is rigged against individual investors, and just 5% strongly disagreed.

Yes, but: The survey's respondents are largely individual investors, not big-money institutional or professional asset managers.

Between the lines: Those with higher levels of education were most likely to agree that the stock market was rigged, with 58% of those with a college degree or more saying the fix was in against mom and pop investors.

  • Americans with higher incomes also were more likely to agree — 53% of those from households with income of $50,000 or more annually said the market was rigged.

Watch this space: "One negative consequence is that … you see a lot of risk-taking behavior," McBride said.

  • "Certainly the GameStop frenzy over the last couple months, particularly in late January, the notion of squeezing the hedge funds or other institutional investors."
  • "That idea of individual investors banding together to go up against whoever they perceive as the villain, I think that could likely be a consequence of that sentiment."
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