Household Wealth “Swells”

This is the title of a story from Reuters story reported here:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. household wealth swelled to a new record in the second quarter of 2004, while borrowing outside the financial sector grew at a slower pace, the Federal Reserve said on Thursday. In its quarterly Flow of Funds report, the Fed said household balance sheets increased 1.4 percent to $45.907 trillion in the second quarter, compared to an upwardly revised $45.270 trillion in the first quarter of this year.

I’m sure the White House will repeat this story with obligatory cheerleading from the National Review’s Lawrence Kudlow who is likely to parrot the claim that this is the higher level of wealth ever. But let’s compare this $45.907 trillion to the $42.292 trillion figure at the end of 1999 after adjusting for a couple of factors: (a) price-level increases; and (b) the increase in population.

Using the GDP deflator (2000 = 100), real household wealth was $43.213 trillion at the end of 1999 and is now $42.44 trillion.

Since population has increased by about 4.5%, real per capita wealth is still 6% lower than it was at the end of 1999.