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Net worth losses in early 2020 were larger at the top

Your net worth is the difference between the value of your assets and the value of your liabilities.

On average, changes in household net worth are driven by changes in the value of financial assets. And these types of assets differ across classes of household wealth: The least wealthy hold assets mostly in the form of housing and consumer durables, while the wealthiest hold assets through financial vehicles or stakes in businesses.

The FRED graph above shows how the onset of the current economic recession has affected each group differently. Each bar represents the quarter-to-quarter percent change in net worth by wealth quantile. Throughout 2019, net worth increased for all four wealth classes of households. During the first quarter of 2020, net worth decreased for all classes of households but was most marked for the wealthiest 1%. The high volatility of financial markets, which peaked in late March, likely explains this phenomenon.

How this graph was created: From FRED’s main page, browse data by “Release.” Search for “Distributional Financial Accounts” and click on “Levels of Wealth by Wealth Percentile Groups.” From the table, select the “Total Net Worth” series held by each of the four wealth quantiles and click “Add to Graph.” Change the graph units by editing line 1, selecting “Units: Percent change” and clicking “Copy to All.” Last, edit the graph’s format by selecting “Graph type: Bars” and choosing colors to taste.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

View on FRED, series used in this post: WFRBLB50107, WFRBLN09053, WFRBLN40080, WFRBLT01026

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