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Doing stuff vs. owning stuff

“People get income for doing stuff, and they get income for owning stuff. Increasingly the latter. And the ownership share of income goes to a small slice of households that own almost all the stuff.”

This is a quote from a recent article by Steve Roth over at Evonomics, where he breaks down the share of US household income that is derived from “labor” vs. “capital.” In other words, how much money do households make from working (trading their time for money) and how much do they make from their existing wealth (that is, owning stuff)?

If I were to oversimplify how he calculates this (you can read all of the details, here), it is: (Income – Labor Compensation) / Income. Take all of the household income. Subtract the money made from doing stuff. And then divide it by total income to get the percentage made from “unearned property income.” There are gray areas and others things to consider, but that’s the gist of it.

What he discovers and argues is that basically 50% of household income comes from simply being wealthy and owning stuff. He also reminds us that approximately 60% of US wealth is… “earned the old-fashioned away: it’s inherited.”

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