Published: June 2006

Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances in 2004

Sponsored by the Federal Reserve Board, this triennial survey collects information concerning household financial characteristics and behavior. The survey is widely believed to be the best source of information about family finances in the United States. Data from this study inform a wide variety of economic policy decisions across the government, and they also serve as a basis for longer-term research on the economic state of the American family. The survey collects information from approximately 4,500 respondents. NORC conducted this survey for the fifth time in 2004.

Recent Changes in U.S. Family Finances: Evidence from the 2001 and 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances, by Brian K. Bucks, Arthur B. Kennickell, and Kevin B. Moore, was published in the Federal Reserve Bulletin, vol. 92 (February 2006), pp. A1-A38. [For detailed statistics that can be downloaded in Excel and other formats: Click Here.]

Data from the survey show that despite small changes in real family income over the 2001–04 period—an increase of 1.6 percent in the median and a decline of 2.3 percent in the mean—families overall still saw some increase in their net worth. The median value of net worth rose 1.5 percent, while the mean rose more—6.3 percent. However, the measured gains in wealth in the 2001–04 period pale in comparison with the much larger increase of the preceding three years; from 1998 to 2001, median net worth rose 10.3 percent and the mean 28.7 percent. In the more recent period, median wealth declined for families in the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution and rose for those higher in the distribution; in contrast, mean net worth rose or held about steady for all income groups.

To download a PDF report of survey findings: Click here.

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