Who owns stocks? Reddit users, but mostly upper-class Americans

Linley SandersData Journalist
January 29, 2021, 2:43 PM GMT+0

This week, the stock market experienced unexpected surges for companies struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic — including GameStop and AMC Theatres — after a group of individuals on Reddit drove up the companies’ values in an attempt to make Wall Street investors who bet against the companies lose money.

After stock market trading platforms stopped individuals from buying more of the volatile stocks on Thursday (and further driving up the price), it raised questions among Republican and Democrats in Congress about who in America has access to the stock exchange. Despite the ability of the collective on Reddit to rally GameStop, the latest data from The Economist/YouGov poll shows that investing in the stock market is largely an activity of the rich or upper middle class.

Three-quarters of Americans who describe their social class as “rich” or “upper middle class” (75%) currently have money invested in the stock market. By comparison, half of Americans who are middle class (49%) have funds in the stock market, while half (51%) do not. Most Americans who identify as working class (70%) or poor (89%) do not have any money invested on Wall Street.

Looking at more tangible measures of affluences shows just one in five Americans (20%) with a household income under $50,000 own stocks, while 80% do not. Most (57%) making between $50,000 to $100,000 annually have stocks or a mutual fund, while three-quarters (74%) of those making $100,000 or more do.

Three-quarters (76%) of Americans with a postgraduate degree have individual stocks or mutual funds, compared to 19% of those who did not attend college. Those with some college background (38%) are 19 percentage points more likely than those with just a high school education to be investing, though most (62%) do not.

Men (44%) are 10-points more likely than women (34%) to say they personally have money invested.Older men are much more likely to own shares – 61% of men aged 65 and above do so, compared to just 33-38% of men under the age of 45. By contrast, women barely become more likely to do so as time goes by – only 28% of women under 30 own shares, rising to just 37% of those aged 65 and older.

The GameStop run gained particular attention because of the power of Reddit users to manipulate the stock market. Data shows that Reddit users (52%) are more likely than Americans overall (39%) to have any money invested in the stock market right now. About half of LinkedIn users (53%) also report having funds on Wall Street.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between January 24 - 26, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3.7% for the overall sample.

Image: Getty