Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Thursday February 25th, 2016, 6:32pm

The Forbes 400 Are Wealthier Than 194 Million Americans Combined

The 400 richest Americans have as much combined wealth as all African-American households in the United States plus a third of those headed by Latinos.

That jaw-dropping stat comes from a recent report by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a left-leaning think tank that examined the wealth concentration among the Forbes 400 billionaires, who are collectively worth a record $2.34 trillion.

Forbes 400 members, including just two African Americans and five Latinos, are wealthier than the entire bottom 61 percent of the U.S. population, representing 194 million people or 70 million households.

America's 20 wealthiest individuals alone (17 men and three women, all of whom are white) currently "own more wealth than the bottom half of the American population combined, a total of 152 million people in 57 million households," according to the report.

The wealth divide is even more striking when compared along racial lines.

The 100 richest Forbes 400 members own as much wealth as the nation's entire African-American population of over 42 million people. And 186 individuals on the Forbes 400 list are as wealthy as all 55 million Latino Americans.

Forbes 400 members have collectively amassed as much wealth as all 16 million African-American households and a third, or 5 million, of Latino households in the United States. 

According to IPS researchers, the net worth of these top 400 billionaires may be understated, as the Forbes numbers do not account for wealth concentrated in offshore tax havens or "buried in complicated and opaque trust mechanisms."

"To even more accurately depict our current wealth divide, we need further research into the tax-evading strategies the super wealthy employ," the report reads. "But we already know enough to know that our current extreme inequality represents a clear and present danger to our social and economic well-being. We have before us serious policy options for creating a much fairer economy."

IPS experts propose several measures in the report to reduce the concentration of wealth, including implementing a direct tax on wealth, taxing capital gains as ordinary income and imposing higher tax rates on the wealthiest households. 

Researchers also support the idea of a tuition-free public college system and proposals to restructure student loans, create child savings accounts and boost investments in affordable housing initiatives.

"Failing to invest in programs that encourage wealth creation at the bottom perpetuates a wealth gap that concentrates the nation's resources into fewer and fewer hands," the experts wrote.


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