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U.S. wealth concentration, or income inequality, has returned to levels not seen since the 1920s, and it could actually be significantly worse.

Driving the news: New research from Gabriel Zucman, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, for the National Bureau of Economic Research was unearthed recently by MarketWatch and finds that the top 1% owns about 40% of total household wealth. It reaches 40.8% when including the Forbes 400.

Further, the top 1% richest U.S. families own 40 times the average family's wealth.

  • "No country (apart from Russia) for which estimates of wealth inequality are available has similarly high recorded levels of wealth inequality," Zucman writes.

Between the lines: Perhaps the most interesting part of Zucman's research may be his point that the top 1% of American households likely hold much more of the nation's and the world's wealth than anyone realizes.

  • "It is not enough to study wealth concentration using self-reported survey data or tax return data," Zucman says in the report, estimating that 8% of the world’s household financial wealth is held offshore.

"Because the wealthy have access to many opportunities for tax avoidance and tax evasion—and because the available evidence suggests that the tax planning industry has grown since the 1980s as it became globalized—traditional data sources are likely to under-estimate the level and rise of wealth concentration."

Zucman also notes that data shows the share of total wealth owned by the top 1% has increased by 9 points since 1989 and by 10 points when including the Forbes 400. In capitalized income estimates, it has increased by 11 points.

  • "The share of wealth owned by the bottom 90% has collapsed in similar proportions."

Worth mentioning: Zucman is one of the economists behind Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax proposal.

Go deeper

Biden's Day 1 challenges: Systemic racism

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor (PA Images)/Getty Images

Advocates are pushing President-elect Biden to tackle systemic racism with a Day 1 agenda that includes ending the detention of migrant children and expanding DACA, announcing a Justice Department investigation of rogue police departments and returning some public lands to Indigenous tribes.

Why it matters: Biden has said the fight against systemic racism will be one of the top goals of his presidency — but the expectations may be so high that he won't be able to meet them.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
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Most Americans are still vulnerable to the coronavirus

Adapted from Bajema, et al., 2020, "Estimated SARS-CoV-2 Seroprevalence in the US as of September 2020"; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

As of September, the vast majority of Americans did not have coronavirus antibodies, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Why it matters: As the coronavirus spreads rapidly throughout most of the country, most people remain vulnerable to it.

Trump set to appear at Pennsylvania GOP hearing on voter fraud claims

President Trumpat the White House on Tuesday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump is due to join his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Wednesday at a Republican-led state Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing to discuss alleged election irregularities.

Why it matters: This would be his first trip outside of the DMV since Election Day and comes shortly after GSA ascertained the results, formally signing off on a transition to President-elect Biden.