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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

8 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.