Richest Americans' Assets Outstrip GNP, IRS Finds

From Associated Press

Nearly 28.5% of America's personal wealth is in the hands of 3.3 million people whose holdings exceed the entire gross national product, the Internal Revenue Service reports.

The IRS says the richest 1.6% of U.S. adults--those with assets of $500,000 or more--had total holdings of $4.3 trillion and a combined net worth of $3.8 trillion in 1986, the latest year for which figures are available.

By comparison, the value of all goods and services produced in the United States in 1986--the GNP--was $4.1 trillion.

Four years earlier, 23% of personal wealth in the United States was held by 2.2 million people with a net worth of $2.1 trillion.

The IRS report suggests the United States has well over 1 million millionaires. In 1986, the IRS estimated, there were 941,000 adults with a net worth of $1 million or more, almost twice the 475,000 reported in 1982 and five times the 180,000 in 1976. The number has surely climbed since then.

More than one-quarter of the richest adults were in California, 558,000, and New York, 340,000. Texas, battered by declining oil prices, dropped from second place to third, with 250,000. Florida had 238,000, Illinois, 148,500.

On a per-capita basis, the IRS said, Connecticut had the largest concentration of wealthy people, at 327 per 10,000 adults. California had 299 per 10,000.

The report, based on estate-tax returns, tracks other recent findings that the number of wealthy people and their share of the pie grew sharply over the past decade. Those studies attributed the increase to an economy that grew for seven straight years and to major changes in tax law.

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