Wealth returning slowly, but more slowly for the poor

May 31, 2013 at 3:38 PM
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ST. LOUIS, May 31 (UPI) -- The recovery of wealth lost during the recession has favored affluent whites, a study by the St. Louis Federal Reserve said.

While homes have recovered some lost value, much of the wealth recovery since the recession has been in stock markets, the Fed said.

In addition, only 45 percent of the $16 trillion in wealth that was wiped out during the recession has been recovered, the Fed said.

By process of elimination, if 55 percent of the losses are uncovered and a major portion of the recovery has been in stock markets, families that entered the recession with most of their wealth tied to the value of their homes have yet to see a full recovery.

The Washington Post reported Friday that the St. Louis Fed study shows that whites, Asian-Americans and older Americans have almost recovered what they lost during the recession.

Younger families and poorer families generally have higher debts, less savings and more of their wealth tied to their homes than to equity markers.

And while foreclosures have been cut dramatically since their peak in the recession, foreclosure rates remain well above pre-recession levels.

"A conclusion that the financial damage of the crisis and recession largely has been repaired is not justified," the Fed's report said.

In addition, economists have found that consumer spending evaporates faster than it recovers with regards to its relationship to wealth.

A study by economists Karl Case, John Quigley and Robert Shiller said that an unexpected 1 percent drop in home prices knocks out 0.1 percent in spending but a similar increase in home values prompts a 0.03 percent rise in consumer spending.

Since job creation is linked to consumer spending, that means it takes more of a recovery in wealth to trigger spending compared to the amount of decline in wealth that reduces spending.

Jobs, using that formula, are quick to evaporate and slow to return.

"Rising wealth is gratifying, but the loss of wealth is terrifying. Households spend somewhat more freely as their nest eggs grow but they slash their spending when their nest eggs shrink, Moodys.com Chief Economist Mark Zandi told the Post.

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