Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Nifty Fifties: People's Capitalism

The Advertising Council seems to have invented "People's Capitalism" in the early 1950's, seeking to encourage widespread stock investing. G. Keith Funston of The New York Stock Exchange picked up the ball and ran with it, and in 1956 General Electric jumped on the bandwagon with this ad.

 In 1952 only 6 percent of Americans owned stocks. How is People's Capitalism doing these days? Pretty good, though somewhat slowed by the Great Recession. The exact answer depends on how you define stock investing.

In 2005, according to a Census Bureau estimate, only a third of white Americans, and less than 10 percent of blacks or Hispanics, owned stocks directly on through mutual funds.

From the PBS archives comes a brighter picture. By the end of the 20th century the average American was indeed a capitalist:
Recently Gallup found that 54 percent of Americans own "individual stock, a stock mutual fund or in a self-directed 401(k) or IRA." That's down from 65 percent in 2007, but still a majority. Slightly fewer Americans pay federal income tax.

Who's most likely to own stocks? Gallup found that 87 percent of Americans making over $75,000 own shares. Also, Republicans, men and postgraduates are much more likely to hold stocks or mutual funds than Democrats, women and less-educated people.

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