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How Many Americans Own Stock? About 145 Million — But the Wealthiest 10% Own More Than

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56% of American adults, or about 145 million people, own stock. That percentage hasn’t moved much over the past decade, despite tremendous gains in the market and the recent meme stock craze.

That’s according to Gallup, which has run polls on how many Americans own stock for over 20 years. 

The last time over 60% of Americans owned stock was in 2008. Stock ownership rates haven’t risen to levels seen prior to the 2008 recession. Since 2009, an average of 55% of Americans reported owning stock. 

While the percentage of Americans that own stock has remained relatively stable, there have been changes in stock ownership broken down by wealth, generations, and race.

Key findings

  • About 145 million Americans — 56% of American adults — own stock. Stock ownership hasn’t fully risen to levels seen prior to the 2008 recession. 
  • American families hold an average of $40,000 worth of stocks, lower than levels prior to the 2008 recession but well above the values held in the 1990s.
  • Families directly hold an average of $25,000 in stocks (directly held stocks include those not held in mutual funds, retirement accounts, and the like).
  • The wealthiest 10% of Americans hold 89% of stocks, worth $35.87 trillion. 
  • The top 1% of Americans in terms of net worth grew their ownership of stocks during the pandemic by 2%. The value of their stock holdings grew by $10 trillion.
  • Baby boomers hold 55% of stocks, valued at $22 trillion. Millennials own 2.5% of stocks, worth $1 trillion. 
  • White Americans own 90% of stocks, worth $36.15 trillion. 

56% of American adults — about 145 million individuals — own stock

144.6 million Americans, or 56% of American adults, own stock, according to Gallup. 

The percentage of Americans that own stock hasn’t changed much over the past decade, despite strong growth over that period and the recent meme stock frenzy.

Year

Percentage of Americans that own stock

2000

60%

2001

62%

2002

63%

2003

61%

2004

63%

2005

61%

2006

62%

2007

62%

2008

61%

2009

59%

2010

56%

2011

57%

2012

53%

2013

52%

2014

54%

2015

55%

2016

52%

2017

54%

2018

55%

2019

55%

2020

55%

2021

56%

Data source: Gallup (2021).

Most stocks are held indirectly, such as through a mutual fund, index fund, or a retirement account like a 401(k). Directly held stocks are those that investors have purchased independently of a fund or retirement account.

According to the Federal Reserve, 53% of American families, about 64.6 million families, held stock in 2019. Only 15%, or 18.6 million families, directly held stock. 

As with the Gallup data, ownership and direct ownership of stocks peaked before the 2008 recession and have yet to completely recover. The percentage of American families that directly hold stock has fluctuated much less than the overall percentage of American families that own stock. 

The faster growth in the overall percentage of American families that held stock from 1989 to 2001 compared to those that directly held stock can at least in part be attributed to 401(k)s being more widely adopted. In 1989, 17.3 million Americans participated in a 401(k) program. By 2000, that number had more than doubled, with 39.8 million Americans enrolled in a 401(k) program.

Year

Percent of American families that hold stock

Percent of American families that directly hold stock

1989

32%

17%

1992

37%

17%

1995

40%

15%

1998

49%

19%

2001

53%

21%

2004

50%

21%

2007

53%

18%

2010

50%

15%

2013

49%

14%

2016

52%

14%

2019

53%

15%

Data source: Federal Reserve (2020).

American families hold an average of $40,000 worth of stocks

The median value of stocks held by American families in 2019 was $40,000, lower than pre-2008-recession levels but well above those in the early and mid-1990s. 

The median value of stocks directly held by American families in 2019 was $25,000, a few thousand dollars below the median value recorded before the 2008 recession and the peak value recorded in 2013.

Year

Median value of stocks held by American families

Median value of stocks held directly by American families

1989

$17,901

$15,912

1992

$19,665

$14,302

1995

$24,205

$15,024

1998

$39,320

$28,310

2001

$50,548

$28,885

2004

$44,568

$20,335

2007

$41,970

$20,985

2010

$34,169

$23,565

2013

$39,314

$29,651

2016

$42,543

$26,589

2019

$40,000

$25,000

Data source: Federal Reserve (2020).

The wealthiest 10% of Americans hold 89% of stocks, worth $35.87 trillion

While over half of American adults own stock, most don’t own much — 89% of stocks are held by the wealthiest 10% of Americans. Those holdings have a value of $35.87 trillion. 

The top 1% of Americans in terms of net worth alone hold 53% of stocks, valued at $21.71 trillion. The next 9% hold 35.1% percent of stocks, worth $14.16 trillion, per data from the second quarter of 2021 collected by the Federal Reserve. 

The next 40% of Americans hold 10.5% of stocks, worth $4.24 trillion. 

The bottom 50% of Americans in terms of net worth own 0.6% of stocks, worth $26 billion. 

While the value of stocks held by all wealth segments has grown over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, only the top 1% expanded their share of stocks owned. In the first quarter of 2020, the top 1% owned 51.7% of stocks. By the end of the second quarter of 2021, they owned 53.8% — a 2.1% increase that equated to roughly $10 trillion in value.

Trends in stock ownership reflect those in wealth inequality and extend past the pandemic. Over the last two decades, the top 1% of Americans expanded their share of stocks owned while all other wealth segments saw their share of stocks owned decline.

Baby boomers hold 55% of stocks, valued at $22 trillion; millennials own 2.5% of stocks

Baby boomers hold 55% of stocks, and those holdings have a value of $22 trillion, more than double the percentage and value of stocks held by Gen X and over 25 times that held by millennials. 

It’s not a huge surprise that baby boomers hold a relatively large amount of stock. They have had longer than Gen Xers and millennials to build wealth in Wall Street and see their investments grow. 

As more baby boomers enter retirement, their share of stocks has begun to decline. In the last quarter of 2019, they owned 55.9% of stocks. In the second quarter of 2021, they owned 54.5%. This is also to be expected, as retirees often liquidate their stock holdings when they need cash.

The share of stocks owned by Generation X has risen over the past decade after a precipitous decline amid the 2008 recession. 

Millennials have seen slower growth in stock ownership — however, the pace has started to pick up somewhat over the past year. In the first quarter of 2020,…

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