Personal Gain Index: Household net worth (American citizen)

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Personal Gain Index (U.S. Congress)

Changes in Net Worth
The Donation Concentration Metric
The K-Street Metric
The Stock Oversight and Trades Metric

Related Content
Net worth of United States Senators and Representatives
Staff salaries of United States Senators and Representatives
Net worth (average citizen)Net worth (Congress)


For the purposes of Ballotpedia's study, Changes in Net Worth of U.S. Senators and Representatives (Personal Gain Index), an "American Citizen" figure was calculated in order to allow us to compare the change in household net worth of a member of Congress to the changes in net worth over the same period experienced by American citizens.

The Census Bureau, the source of the below figures, breaks down net worth into the following component categories:

  • Interest earning assets at financial institutions
  • Other interest earning assets
  • Regular checking accounts
  • Stocks and mutual fund shares
  • Equity in business or profession
  • Equity in motor vehicles
  • Rental property equity
  • Other real estate equity
  • U.S. Savings Bonds
  • IRA or KEOGH accounts
  • 401K and thrift savings plans
  • Other assets[1]

The census also includes a category for "equity in own home," but because the congressional net worth data does not "require filers to report property, including personal residences, that is not held for investment purposes and does not produce income,"[2] Ballotpedia did not factor in the average citizen's home equity into this figure.

Average versus median

This report compared average and median data, and in both cases the growth of congressional net worth significantly outpaced that of the American citizen.

Congressional net worth figures are a relatively small data set,[3] so Ballotpedia used average percentage changes throughout the study (adjusted as needed for outliers)[4] to best illustrate the average growth of wealth of members of Congress. The data for American citizens is a large sampling of the population that includes many households on either end of the distribution (high or low wealth), so median numbers were also included.

An average value is calculated by adding all the observations and dividing by the number of observations. A median is the middle value of a list.[5] The median figure can be beneficial in circumstances, like this one, where the high net worth of the wealthiest Americans can skew the average. Both the average and median for congressional and American citizen net worth growth are provided below. For a direct comparison to each individual member's figures (as shown on his or her Ballotpedia profile), the yearly median change will correspond with each member's average yearly change.

Median figures

Between 2004-2012, the median American household[6] saw an inflation-adjusted decrease of assets from $18,990 in 2004[7] to $17,557 in 2012. This was an inflation-adjusted annual percentage change of -0.94 from 2004 to 2012. Note that in order to have an apples-to-apples comparison between the household net worth of U.S. Congressmen and that of the American citizen, the value of equity in the citizen's personal residence was not taken into account in calculating the net worth of the average citizen, since the value of the personal residence of a Congressman is not included in their disclosure of their household net worth.

Median annual congressional growth:[8] Median annual citizen growth:[9]
PGI percentage11.jpg
PGI percentage7.jpg

Median citizen growth

American Citizen Median value of assets for households - Census data
Raw figures Adjusted for inflation
Year Net worth excluding home equity Net worth excluding home equity[10] Percent change (year to year)
2012[11] $17,298 $17,557 -7.55%
2004 $15,561[12] $18,990 --
Change from 2004 to 2012 $1,737 -$1,433 -7.55%
Average yearly change over eight years ('04-'12) -0.94%[13]
Source: United States Census Bureau; Wealth and Asset Ownership; Detailed Tables on Wealth and Asset Ownership (http://www.census.gov/people/wealth/data/dtables.html)

Average figures

Between 2004-2012, the average American household[6] saw an inflation-adjusted slight increase of assets from $204,957 in 2004[7] to $264,963 in 2012. This was an inflation-adjusted annual percentage change of 3.7 percent from 2004 to 2012.

  • As stated in the median section above, in order to have an apples-to-apples comparison between the household net worth of U.S. Congressmen and that of the American citizen, the value of equity in the citizen's personal residence was not taken into account in calculating the net worth of the average citizen, since the value of the personal residence of a Congressman is not included in their disclosure of their household net worth.
Average annual congressional growth:[14] Average annual citizen growth:[15]
PGI percentage6.jpg
PGI percentage13.jpg

Average citizen growth

American Citizen average value of assets for households - Census data
Raw figures Adjusted for inflation
Year Net worth excluding home equity Net worth excluding home equity[16] Percent change (year to year)
2012[17] $261,138 $264,963 29.3%
2004 $166,195[18] $204,957 --
Change from 2004 to 2012 $94,942.40 $60,006 3.7%
Average yearly change over eight years ('04-'12) 3.7%[19]
Source: United States Census Bureau; Wealth and Asset Ownership; Detailed Tables on Wealth and Asset Ownership (http://www.census.gov/people/wealth/data/dtables.html)

See also

References

  1. Census.gov, "About Wealth and Asset Ownership," accessed July 8, 2014
  2. OpenSecrets.org, "About the Personal Finances Data & CRP's Methodology," accessed July 8, 2014
  3. 618 members are included in the congressional data, compared to the millions sampled in the census data.
  4. Such as Chellie Pingree.
  5. "Medians are often used when data are skewed, meaning that the distribution is uneven. In that case, a few very high numbers could, for instance, change the average, but they would not change the median." Bandolier, "Mean, Median, Mode," accessed July 15, 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 The citizen net worth data was calculated from figures from the United States Census Bureau. In keeping with the method of calculating congressional net worth, home equity was withheld from the figure. The figures reflect the median household holdings.
  7. 7.0 7.1 The 2004 figure was adjusted for inflation to 2012 dollars.
  8. This percentage reflects the median annual percentage growth of all members of Congress.
  9. As stated above, this is the total change in the amount of assets the median American household had from 2004 to 2012 divided by the eight year span.
  10. To ensure consistency among data sets, home equity was withheld in a similar fashion to primary residences not being counted as assets for congressional data.
  11. Because 2012 household net worth figures had not been released as of publication date, this figure represents the 2011 numbers adjusted for inflation. These estimates assume no change in net worth between 2011 and 2012. The 2012 figure will be updated when available.
  12. Census figures were unavailable for the raw, excluding home equity figure -- this figure is an estimate calculated by applying the 2005 ratio of net worth excluding home equity to the net worth figure available for 2004 (which included home equity).
  13. For a direct comparison to each individual member's figures (as shown on his or her Ballotpedia profile), the yearly change will correspond with each member's average yearly change.
  14. This percentage reflects the average annual percentage growth of all members of Congress.
  15. As stated above, this is the total change in the amount of assets the average American household had from 2004 to 2012 divided by the eight year span.
  16. To ensure consistency among data sets, home equity was withheld in a similar fashion to primary residences not being counted as assets for congressional data.
  17. Because 2012 household net worth figures had not been released as of publication date, this figure represents the 2011 numbers adjusted for inflation. These estimates assume no change in net worth between 2011 and 2012. The 2012 figure will be updated when available.
  18. Census figures were unavailable for the raw, excluding home equity figure -- this figure is an estimate calculated by applying the 2005 ratio of net worth excluding home equity to the net worth figure available for 2004 (which included home equity).
  19. For a direct comparison to each individual member's figures (as shown on his or her Ballotpedia profile), the yearly change will correspond with each member's average yearly change.