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How Many Americans Own Stock? About 150 Million -- But the Wealthiest 1% Own More Than Half

Over half of Americans own stock, but it's not distributed equally.

By Lyle Daly – Updated Jan 19, 2023 at 10:29AM

Americans have plenty of ways they can invest, from workplace retirement plans to opening individual accounts with top stock brokers. But how many people invest in the stock market?

americans-stock
Image source: Getty Images.

About 150 million people in the United States invest in stocks, according to a recent Gallup survey. However, certain demographics own much more than others. Read on for the latest data on how many Americans own stock, as well as how stock ownership breaks down by wealth, generation, and race.

Key findings

  • About 150 million Americans, or 58% of American adults, own stock.
  • The 1% hold 53% of stocks, worth $16.76 trillion.
  • The bottom 50% of American adults hold only 0.6% of stocks, worth $19 billion.
  • White Americans own 89.1% of stocks, worth $28.17 trillion.
  • American families held an average of $40,000 in stocks as of 2019. This is far below the peak of over $50,000 in 2001.

How many Americans own stock?

149.8 million Americans, or 58% of American adults, own stock, according to Gallup. That was a 2% increase from 2021.

Stock ownership declined after the recession. From 2001 to 2008, an average of 62% of Americans owned stock. That fell to as low as 52% in 2013 and 2016. Although stock ownership among Americans has ticked up in recent years, there's the possibility of another decline due to the market volatility of 2022.

Data source: Gallup (2021).
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%
2022 58%

Most Americans indirectly hold stocks, such as through a mutual fund, index fund, or a retirement account like a 401(k). A smaller percentage directly hold stocks, meaning they purchase individual shares.

According to the Federal Reserve, here's how many families held stock in 2019:

  • 52.6% of American families (about 64.6 million families) held stock
  • 15.2% of American families (about 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.

Overall stock ownership grew much more quickly than direct stock ownership from 1989 to 2001.

That's at least partially due to wider availability of 401(k)s. 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.

Data source: Federal Reserve (2021).
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%

Stock ownership by level of wealth

While over half of American adults own stock, most don't own much. The wealthiest 1% hold 53% of stocks, worth $16.76 trillion.

If you expand to the top 10%, that group holds 88.6% of stocks, which have a value of $28 trillion.

The rest of the country, on the other hand, has seen stock ownership dwindle in comparison. And the bottom 50% of Americans in terms of net worth only own 0.6% of stocks, worth $19 billion.

Trends in stock ownership reflect those in wealth inequality. 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.

Data source: Federal Reserve (2021).
Date Top 1% of net worth 90th to 99th percentile 50th to 90th percentile Bottom 50%
1989:Q3 42.9% 39.2% 16.7% 1.2%
1990:Q2 42.5% 38.7% 17.5% 1.3%
1991:Q1 41.8% 37.8% 19.0% 1.4%
1991:Q4 43.1% 36.6% 18.8% 1.5%
1992:Q3 43.0% 36.0% 19.5% 1.6%
1993:Q2 45.4% 35.0% 18.1% 1.5%
1994:Q1 46.9% 34.2% 17.4% 1.5%
1994:Q4 49% 33.3% 16.0% 1.6%
1995:Q3 51.0% 32.7% 14.8% 1.5%
1996:Q2 49.2% 33.4% 15.8% 1.6%
1997:Q1 47.9% 33.8% 16.6% 1.7%
1997:Q4 48% 34.0% 16.3% 1.7%
1998:Q3 46.9% 34.4% 17.0% 1.8%
1999:Q2 46.6% 35.0% 16.9% 1.6%
2000:Q1 46.5% 35.4% 16.6% 1.5%
2000:Q4 43.7% 36.4% 18.3% 1.6%
2001:Q3 40.2% 37.5% 20.6% 1.7%
2002:Q2 41.3% 37.0% 20.2% 1.5%
2003:Q1 40.9% 36.9% 20.7% 1.4%
2003:Q4 44.7% 35.9% 18.3% 1.1%
2004:Q3 46.5% 35.3% 17.2% 1.0%
2005:Q2 47.4% 35.5% 16.1% 1.0%
2006:Q1 48.7% 35.6% 14.7% 1.0%
2006:Q4 49.1% 35.8% 14.0% 1.0%
2007:Q3 49.5% 36.0% 13.5% 1.0%
2008:Q2 47.9% 36.8% 14.3% 1.0%
2009:Q1 44.2% 38.6% 16.2% 1.0%
2009:Q4 47.0% 37.9% 14.2% 0.9%
2010:Q3 47.7% 38.0% 13.4% 0.8%
2011:Q2 48.5% 37.2% 13.4% 0.8%
2012:Q1 48.5% 36.8% 13.8% 0.9%
2012:Q4 48.6% 36.4% 14.1% 0.9%
2013:Q3 49.5% 35.7% 13.8% 0.9%
2014:Q2 50.7% 35.4% 13.0% 0.8%
2015:Q1 51.2% 35.3% 12.6% 0.8%
2015:Q4 51.3% 35.4% 12.5% 0.8%
2016:Q3 51.8% 35.2% 12.2% 0.8%
2017:Q2 52.1% 35.3% 11.8% 0.7%
2018:Q1 52.4% 35.4% 11.5% 0.7%
2018:Q4 51.9% 35.9% 11.6% 0.6%
2019:Q3 52.5% 35.8% 11.1% 0.6%
2020:Q2 52.3% 35.8% 11.2% 0.6%
2021:Q1 53.5% 35.2% 10.6% 0.6%
2021:Q4 53.9% 35.1% 10.4% 0.6%
2022:Q3 53.0% 35.6% 10.8% 0.6%

Stock ownership by generation

Baby boomers have the largest share of stocks and they're not letting go. They hold 56.3% of stocks, their highest total on record, which is valued at $17.79 trillion.

It's no surprise that baby boomers hold a large amount of stock. They've had plenty of time to build wealth via Wall Street and see their investments grow. Average net worth goes up as Americans age, which often means older Americans have more wealth to put into the stock market.

However, Gen Xers and millennials have increased their holdings, as well. Gen Xers own 25.5% of stocks, worth $8.05 trillion. Millennials own 2.3% of stocks, worth $720 billion. The latter group presumably includes Gen Z investors, since the Federal Reserve hasn't separated them yet.

In our own research on what Gen Z and millennials buy, we found that 57% of investors in this age range invest in the stock market.

Data source: Federal Reserve (2022).
Date Silent Generation and earlier Baby boomers Gen X Millennials
1989:Q3 81.7% 18.1% 0.2% 0.0%
1990:Q2 84.9% 15.1% 0.0% 0.0%
1991:Q1 81.5% 18.5% 0.0% 0.0%
1991:Q4 76.6% 22.7% 0.7% 0.0%
1992:Q3 77.9% 21.7% 0.4% 0.0%
1993:Q2 72.7% 26.1% 1.2% 0.0%
1994:Q1 71.9% 27.0% 1.1% 0.0%
1994:Q4 76.3% 23.7% 0.0% 0.0%
1995:Q3 71.2% 27.6% 1.2% 0.0%
1996:Q2 67.8% 30.1% 2.1% 0.0%
1997:Q1 67.9% 30.2% 1.9% 0.0%
1997:Q4 63.6% 32.5% 3.9% 0.0%
1998:Q3 64.0% 32.5% 3.5% 0.0%
1999:Q2 57.7% 35.8% 6.5% 0.0%
2000:Q1 54.3% 37.3% 8.4% 0.0%
2000:Q4 56.5% 36.5% 7.0% 0.0%
2001:Q3 57.4% 37.0% 5.6% 0.0%
2002:Q2 55.3% 39.2% 5.5% 0.0%
2003:Q1 57.2% 40.4% 2.4% 0.0%
2003:Q4 51.0% 43.0% 5.9% 0.0%
2004:Q3 49.5% 44.8% 5.7% 0.0%
2005:Q2 49.0% 44.9% 6.0% 0.0%
2006:Q1 47.2% 45.1% 7.6% 0.1%
2006:Q4 46.5% 45.6% 7.8% 0.1%
2007:Q3 45.2% 46.2% 8.4% 0.2%
2008:Q2 44.3% 48.5% 6.8% 0.3%
2009:Q1 47.6% 52.1% 0.0% 0.3%
2009:Q4 39.7% 52.1% 7.7% 0.5%
2010:Q3 36.3% 53.0% 10.1% 0.6%
2011:Q2 35.0% 52.0% 12.3% 0.8%
2012:Q1 34.6% 51.8% 12.7% 0.9%
2012:Q4 34.1% 51.5% 13.3% 1.1%
2013:Q3 32.4% 50.7% 15.6% 1.3%
2014:Q2 30.7% 51.8% 16.1% 1.4%
2015:Q1 29.9% 53.0% 15.6% 1.5%
2015:Q4 29.6% 54.5% 14.4% 1.5%
2016:Q3 28.6% 55.4% 14.4% 1.6%
2017:Q2 26.1% 55.2% 17.0% 1.7%
2018:Q1 23.7% 55.1% 19.4% 1.7%
2018:Q4 21.8% 55.9% 20.6% 1.7%
2019:Q3 19.2% 55.3% 23.6% 1.8%
2020:Q2 19.1% 55.6% 23.4% 1.9%
2021:Q1 18.1% 54.6% 25.1% 2.2%
2021:Q4 17.0% 54.4% 26.1% 2.5%
2022:Q3 16.0% 56.3% 25.5% 2.3%

Stock ownership by race

Stock ownership is split dramatically along racial lines, with white Americans owning 89.1% of stocks with a total value of $28.17 trillion. 

The share of stocks owned by white Americans has gradually declined from 96.2% in 1989. But the breakdown of stock ownership by race is still far from reflecting the racial breakdown of the U.S. population.

Despite making up 13.8% of the population, black Americans only own 1.1% of stocks, worth $360 billion. That has gone down over the last decade, from 1.5% in 2013.

Unfortunately, numbers are even worse for Hispanic Americans. Although they make up 18.9% of the population, they own 0.5% of stocks, worth $160 billion. In fact, the share of stocks owned by Hispanic Americans is lower now than it was in 1989.

Data source: Federal Reserve (2022).
Date White Black Hispanic Other
1989:Q3 96.2% 0.8% 0.7% 2.3%
1990:Q2 95.9% 0.9% 0.8% 2.5%
1991:Q1 95.4% 1.1% 0.7% 2.8%
1991:Q4 95.2% 1.2% 0.6% 3.0%
1992:Q3 95.2% 1.2% 0.6% 3.0%
1993:Q2 95.2% 1.2% 0.5% 3.1%
1994:Q1 95.2% 1.2% 0.5% 3.1%
1994:Q4 95.4% 1.1% 0.5% 3.1%
1995:Q3 95.4% 1.0% 0.4% 3.1%
1996:Q2 95.3% 1.3% 0.6% 2.8%
1997:Q1 95.1% 1.4% 0.8% 2.6%
1997:Q4 95.1% 1.5% 0.9% 2.5%
1998:Q3 95.0% 1.6% 1.1% 2.4%
1999:Q2 95.3% 1.3% 0.9% 2.5%
2000:Q1 95.6% 1.1% 0.8% 2.5%
2000:Q4 95.7% 1.0% 0.9% 2.4%
2001:Q3 95.6% 1.0% 0.9% 2.4%
2002:Q2 95.5% 1.1% 1.0% 2.4%
2003:Q1 95.2% 1.4% 1.1% 2.3%
2003:Q4 95.0% 1.4% 1.1% 2.5%
2004:Q3 94.8% 1.5% 1.1% 2.6%
2005:Q2 94.7% 1.3% 1.2% 2.9%
2006:Q1 94.6% 1.0% 1.2% 3.2%
2006:Q4 94.4% 0.8% 1.2% 3.5%
2007:Q3 94.2% 0.7% 1.3% 3.8%
2008:Q2 93.4% 0.8% 1.3% 4.5%
2009:Q1 92.7% 1.0% 1.5% 4.8%
2009:Q4 91.8% 1.0% 1.2% 6.0%
2010:Q3 91.1% 1.1% 1.0% 6.8%
2011:Q2 91.5% 1.2% 1.0% 6.3%
2012:Q1 91.8% 1.3% 1.0% 5.8%
2012:Q4 92.2% 1.5% 1.0% 5.4%
2013:Q3 92.4% 1.5% 0.9% 5.2%
2014:Q2 92.3% 1.4% 1.1% 5.2%
2015:Q1 92.2% 1.4% 1.4% 5.1%
2015:Q4 92.0% 1.4% 1.6% 4.9%
2016:Q3 91.9% 1.3% 1.8% 5.0%
2017:Q2 91.1% 1.3% 1.5% 6.1%
2018:Q1 90.5% 1.3% 1.1% 7.1%
2018:Q4 89.8% 1.2% 0.9% 8.1%
2019:Q3 89.3% 1.1% 0.5% 9.1%
2020:Q2 89.2% 1.1% 0.5% 9.1%
2021:Q1 89.5% 1.1% 0.4% 8.9%
2021:Q4 89.4% 1.1% 0.4% 9.1%
2022:Q3 89.1% 1.1% 0.5% 9.3%

Related stock topics

Average value of stocks held by American families

The median value of stocks held by American families in 2019 was $40,000. That's well above what it was in the early and mid-1990s but below the peak recorded in 2001.

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.

Data source: Federal Reserve (2021).
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

Buy and hold

The data on how many people invest in the stock market has some promising signs and also highlights serious issues.

It's encouraging that 58% of American adults own stock. Younger generations are also gradually investing more. Millennials have increased their stock ownership over the last decade. Gen Z investors are learning how to invest in stocks and entering the market, as well.

On the other hand, we can't ignore the fact that the wealthiest Americans own far more stock than 90% of the country. Stock ownership rates are also low among Hispanic and Black households.

While starting to invest may seem daunting, it's a step worth taking for the 42% of Americans that currently don't own stocks. The average stock market return is about 10% per year, so investing is a great way to save for retirement. And there are also investment services that outperform the market.

If you're new to investing, here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Build a diversified portfolio with at least 25 stocks. This greatly reduces risk, since you're not reliant on a handful of companies.
  • If you want to keep it simple, consider investing in index funds or low-cost ETFs. These contain a large basket of stocks, so you get a diversified portfolio in one investment.
  • Invest regularly, whether through an individual brokerage account or retirement accounts (or both!). Even if you're only investing a small amount per month, doing this consistently is key to building wealth.

Most importantly, invest for the long haul. The Motley Fool recommends holding for at least five years, even through market volatility.

Being a successful investor isn't as difficult as you might think. If you buy and hold good companies, it can generate huge financial rewards in the long run.

Sources

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