How Many Americans Own Stocks? [Data 2021]

What percentage of Americans own stocks? When the stock market is on a rapid rise, who is reaping the benefits?
Last updated Oct 11, 2021 | By Kerry Murray | Edited By Becca Borawski Jenkins
How Many Americans Own Stocks?

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Stock ownership in the United States is a key component of building wealth and saving for a financially secure retirement. A little more than half of American families have some stake in the stock market, and stock ownership closely correlates with income, education, and race.

We’ve taken a closer look at these numbers to see how stock ownership has changed over time, who has the lion’s share of the wealth, and who can and cannot access these wealth-building assets.

Key takeaways:

  • The percentage of Americans who own stock rose to 52.6% in 2019 from 31.9% in 1989.
  • The top 20% of income earners own 87% of corporate equities and mutual funds.
  • 61% of White families, 33.5% of Black families, and 24% of Hispanic families own stock.
  • Tesla (TSLA) is the most popular stock to own across the generations, from baby boomers to Generation Z, followed closely by Apple (APPL).
  • The number of global cryptocurrency users nearly doubled from 106 million to 203 million in the first five months of 2021.
  • 39% of workers with a retirement plan have savings and investments totaling more than $250,000, while less than 2% of workers without a retirement plan do.
In this article

Percentage of Americans who own stock

  • 56% of Americans own stock, according to a Gallup poll conducted in April and July of 2021.
  • The average rate of U.S. stock ownership since 2009 is 55%, down from the 62% average recorded from 2001 to 2008 prior to the Great Recession.
  • S&P Global reports only 26% of American women invest in the stock market, though 41% have a favorable view of investing and two-thirds are primary or co-breadwinners.

(Sources: 1 - Gallup, 2 - S&P Global)

The percentage of Americans who own stock is strongly correlated with household income, education, race, and age.

Income

92% of households in the top 10% of income earnings own stock, while just 31% of those in the lower 50% of the income distribution own stocks.

Upper-middle class Americans — the group between the lower 50% and the upper 10% of income distribution — have a 70% rate of stock ownership.

According to the 2021 data from the Federal Reserve, the top 1% own 44% of all corporate equities and mutual fund shares to the tune of $16.5 trillion.

87% of all stocks are owned by the top 20% of income earners in the U.S.

(Sources: 3 - Federal Reserve Bulletin, 4 - Federal Reserve)

Education

84% of Gallup poll respondents with a postgraduate degree and 77% of college graduates own stock. In contrast, 56% of those with some college and 33% of those who never attended college own stock.

Those with a college degree and higher control 83% of all stocks in the U.S. Their median stock portfolio has a value four times greater than those with some college.

(Sources: 1 - Gallup, 4 - Federal Reserve)

Race

61% of White families, 33.5% of Black families, and 24% of Hispanic families own stock, according to the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances.

Researchers have found that Black and Hispanic families allocate more of their assets to real estate investing and less to stocks than comparable White families. This gap actually widens at higher income levels.

Black households with a median level of wealth invest 4.4% less of their assets in stocks, while at the 90th wealth percentile, that percentage grows to 6.7%. For Hispanic households at median wealth, the difference is 5%, and at the 90th percentile, it is 9%.

Housing values have only started to rebound since the Great Recession, yet the stock market has surged, with the S&P gaining 16% in 2020. These differences in the rates of return for these asset classes significantly impacts the wealth of Black and Hispanic families.

The median stock portfolio value for White households is $50,750, more than three times the median values of Black and Hispanic stock portfolios at $15,000 each.

This gap is even more pronounced when looking at the average value of portfolios. White families have average stock holdings of $434,000 compared to $76,000 for Black families and $99,000 for Hispanic families.

As of the first quarter of 2021, White families control 90% of all stock holdings. Black families own just 1%, and Hispanic families own less than 0.5% of all stock in the U.S.

(Sources: 5 - Federal Reserve, 6 - American Economic Association, 4 - Federal Reserve)

Age

Younger respondents to the Gallup poll, those aged 18-29, had the lowest rate of stock ownership at 39%.

One generation older, the 30-49 crowd, had an ownership rate of 60%, with the middle-aged (ages 50-64) and the elders (65 and up) coming in at 62% and 59%, respectively.

According to the Federal Reserve, those 65 and older own 43% of the stock market, with a median portfolio valued at $109,000 for the 65 to 74 group.

In comparison, the under 35 group has a median portfolio value of $7,360 and owns just 1.4% of stocks in the U.S.

(Sources: 1 - Gallup, 4 - Federal Reserve)

How many people own Facebook stock?

Percentage of Americans who own Facebook (FB) stock by generation:

  • 1% of Generation Z investors
  • 1.5% of millennial investors
  • 2.1% of Generation X investors
  • 1.9% of baby boomer investors

Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has reduced his stake in the company to 14% from a high of 28% when Facebook first went public in 2012.

Institutional investment firms own 80.62% of Facebook’s 2.38 billion outstanding shares, the top two firms being the Vanguard Group and Blackrock.

(Sources: 8 - Apex, 9 - Forbes, 10 - Yahoo! Finance)

How many people own Apple stock?

Percentage of Americans who own Apple (AAPL) stock by generation:

  • 8.4% of Generation Z investors
  • 7.3% of millennial investors
  • 11.6% of Generation X investors
  • 17.3% of baby boomer investors

The general public owns 40.6% of Apple and it is in the top three of stocks held by every generation of investors.

58.47% of Apple’s 16.53 billion shares are held by institutional investment firms, with the Vanguard Group, Blackrock, and Berkshire Hathaway leading the way.

(Sources: 8 - Apex, 10 - Yahoo! Finance)

How many people own Tesla stock?

Percentage of Americans who own Tesla (TSLA) stock by generation:

  • 11.6% of Generation Z investors
  • 13.2% of millennial investors
  • 13.5% of Generation X investors
  • 9.1% of baby boomer investors

Tesla is in the top two stocks held by every generation of investors.

Elon Musk owns 21% of Tesla stock, but more than half of his shares are tied up as collateral for loans.

41.36% of Tesla shares are owned by institutional investment firms, led by Vanguard and Blackrock.

(Sources: 8 - Apex, 11 - Forbes Billionaires, 10 - Yahoo! Finance)

How many people own Disney stock?

Percentage of Americans who own Disney (DIS) stock by generation:

  • 2.0% of Generation Z investors
  • 1.5% of millenial investors
  • 1.3% of Generation X investors
  • 1.1% of baby boomer investors

Institutional firms own 66.46% of Disney’s 1.82 billion shares, and once again, Vanguard and Blackrock are the top two investors.

(Sources: 8 - Apex, 10 - Yahoo! Finance)

How many people own Walmart stock?

Insiders hold 49.52% of Walmart shares. In this case, the largest insider investors are Walton Enterprises LLC and the Walton Family Holdings Trust, both of which were set up to aid the Walton family in managing their interest in Walmart.

31.50% of the 2.79 billion Walmart shares are owned by institutions, with Vanguard and Blackrock leading the way.

Walmart did not make our list of top 20 stocks held by any of our four generations.

(Source: 10 - Yahoo! Finance)

How many people own cryptocurrency?

  • The number of global users of cryptocurrency reached 221 million in June 2021.
  • The number of cryptocurrency users more than doubled from 106 million in January 2021 to 221 million in June 2021.

(Source: 12 - Crypto.com)

Global cryptocurrency is growing, while Bitcoin’s share is declining

Since January 2021, Bitcoin’s share of cryptocurrency users has declined from 67% to 51%.

Ethereum has moved from 13% to 20% market share.

Altcoins such as Dogecoin have grown in market share from 20% in January of 2021 to 38% in June.

(Source: 12 - Crypto.com)

Interest in cryptocurrency is rising and skepticism is declining

Gallup surveyed U.S. investors (defined as an adult with $10,000 or more invested in stocks, bonds, or mutual funds) in June 2021 and found interest in Bitcoin had grown and skepticism had lessened.

The Gallup survey found 6% of U.S. investors owned Bitcoin, up from 2% in May 2018. Another 2% said they planned to buy Bitcoin in the near future. 34% were intrigued by Bitcoin but did not plan to buy it soon, up from 26% in 2018.

62% of respondents aged 18 to 49 had heard of Bitcoin, up from 48% three years earlier. More importantly, this 62% had some knowledge of how Bitcoin worked.

U.S. investors as a group were not completely won over as 60% felt Bitcoin was still “very risky.” However, this was down significantly from the 75% in 2018 who thought the same thing.

Unsurprisingly, younger investors had warmed up faster, with only 47% of the 18 to 49 group labeling Bitcoin as “very risky.” This was a 24-point improvement from 2018 as 71% of this age group gave Bitcoin the “very risky” label then.

(Source: 13 - Gallup - Bitcoin)

How many people have retirement accounts?

  • 50.6% of American families have at least one retirement account.
  • The median retirement account balance is $65,000, and the average retirement account balance is $255,130.

(Source: 5 - Federal Reserve)

Retirement plan access matters

84% of workers with access to a retirement account report saving for retirement, while only 18% of those without a plan have saved for retirement.

39% of workers with a retirement plan have savings and investments (excluding primary residence) totaling more than $250,000, while less than 2% of workers without a retirement plan have savings and investments above $250,000.

Less than 12% of workers with a retirement plan have saved less than $10,000, yet 65% of workers without a plan have saved less than $10,000.

(Source: 14 - EBRI)

Retirement account access and participation vary by race

68% of working-age (under 55) White families have access to employer-sponsored retirement plans, which is 12 points higher than the 56% of working-age Black families who have access and 24 points higher than the 44% of Hispanic families who have retirement plan access.

90% of White families who have access participate in their employer-sponsored retirement plan, while 80% of Black families and 75% of Hispanic families participate.

These differing participation rates by race and ethnicity further widen the gap between those who benefit from an employer-sponsored retirement plan and those who do not. Ultimately 60% of White families, 45% of Black families, and 34% of Hispanic families participate in these plans.

(Source: 3 - Federal Reserve Bulletin)

*Retirement accounts include individual retirement accounts (IRAs), which are not dependent upon an employer, and employer-sponsored plans such as 401(k)s and traditional pensions. The Federal Reserve does not include traditional pensions (defined benefit plans) or Social Security in their survey’s retirement calculations as the value of the accounts will vary by future income and years of work. “Employer-sponsored plan” refers to either a defined contribution plan such as a 401(k) or a defined benefit plan such as a traditional pension.

How stock ownership has changed from year to year

  • 52.6% of American families owned stock in 2019, up slightly from 51.9% in 2016, according to the Federal Reserve.
  • Stock ownership was highest in 2001 and 2007, with 53% of U.S. families owning some stock. This fell to 49% in 2013 as a result of the Great Recession.
  • 31.9% of families owned stock in 1989. The percentage of Americans who own stock by year steadily climbed from 1989 to 37% in 1992, 40% in 1995, 49% in 1998, to more than half of all families, 53%, owning stock in 2001.
  • A sharp rise in indirect stockholdings, such as through a retirement account or mutual fund, accounts for most of the increase in U.S. families’ participation in the stock market since 1989.
  • Direct holding of stocks has remained relatively flat from 1989 to 2019, ranging from 14% to 21% of families holding stocks directly, with most years clustered around 15%.
  • IRS innovations and new financial products helped Americans learn how to invest money and lowered the barrier to entry for many during this growth period of 1989 to 2001.
  • New investing options included automatic contributions to 401(k) plans from an employee’s paycheck, the emergence of low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in 1993, and the 1998 creation of Roth IRAs allowing for tax-free income in retirement.

(Sources: 5 - Federal Reserve, 15 - Yahoo! Finance, 16 - Forbes)

Average income of American investors

  • 89% of Americans earning $100,000 or more own stocks.
  • 63% of middle-income earners making $40,000 to $99,999 a year own stocks.
  • 24% of those earning less than $40,000 own stocks.
  • The top 20% of Americans have an annual income of $127,300 or above and hold 87% of all corporate equities and mutual funds equal to $32.45 trillion.

(Sources: 1 - Gallup, 3 - Federal Reserve Bulletin, 4 - Federal Reserve)

Bottom line

The S&P 500 returned 16% for investors in 2020. This was welcome news for those with a stake in the stock market, but for almost half of U.S. households, these potential earnings missed them completely. Understanding which Americans own stock and which do not is key to lowering the barriers to stock ownership and increasing access to financial security.

The good news is much of the growth in stock ownership in the U.S. since 1989 can be partially attributed to easily accessible financial offerings such as ETFs and Roth IRAs.

Sources

1. Gallup - What Percentage of Americans Owns Stock?
2. S&P Global - The Financial Future is Female
3. Federal Reserve Bulletin - Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2016 to 2019: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances, Vol. 106, No. 5
4. Federal Reserve - Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S. since 1989
5. Federal Reserve - Survey of Consumer Finances, 1989-2019
6. American Economic Association Papers and Proceedings - Wealth Stratification and Portfolio Choice
7. New York Times - Who Owns Stocks? Explaining the Rise in Inequality During the Pandemic
8. Apex - Next Investor Outlook, Q2 2021
9. Forbes - Mark Zuckerberg Has Sold Facebook Stock Almost Every Weekday This Year
10. Yahoo! Finance
11. Forbes Billionaires 2021: The Richest People in the World
12. Crypto.com - Measuring Global Crypto Users
13. Gallup - Bitcoin Making Inroads With Younger U.S. Investors
14. EBRI - Retirement Confidence Survey 2021: Fact Sheet #3 Preparing for Retirement in America
15. Yahoo! Finance - A Brief History of Exchange-Traded Funds
16. Forbes - Happy Birthday Roth IRA: 20 Years and Counting

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Author Details

Kerry Murray Kerry is a freelance copy editor and fact checker who has lived and worked on four continents. Her previous career as a university instructor and researcher in the social sciences informs her critical approach to data and what constitutes a legitimate source.