Summary of The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy

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Equality of opportunity has been a founding principle of the American Republic. However, in an eye-opening, self-deprecating cover story for The Atlantic magazine, Matthew Stewart uses statistics and personal anecdotes to describe how privilege in the United States is becoming increasingly inheritable. If you consider yourself part of a meritocratic middle class, getAbstract believes Stewart might change your mind.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Which societal segment makes up the “new aristocracy” in the United States,
  • Why social mobility has been diminishing in the nation, and
  • What the potential consequences of increasing economic inequality and social immobility look like.

About the Author

Matthew Stewart is a political philosopher and author of Nature’s God and The Management Myth.



Inequality in the United States has risen sharply. Since the mid-1980s, the wealth share of the top 0.1% rose by 12 percentage points, while that of the bottom 90% fell by the same amount. The wealth share of the 9.9% in between, however, has remained stable. The 9.9% have come to form a distinct new class with a strong resemblance to an aristocracy founded on wealth and birth. By definition, the 9.9% have a minimum net worth of $1.2 million. They are mostly white, hold advanced degrees, and for the most part earn their living in the financial, managerial, legal or medical sectors. Although members of the 9.9% still perceive themselves as part of the “middle class” who have earned their wealth through meritocratic means, they ignore the fact that few children born among the bottom 90% have a realistic chance of joining their ranks. Rising inequality has hampered social mobility – a phenomenon the economist Alan Krueger refers to as the “Great Gatsby Curve.”

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