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Published: May 24, 2023 4 min read

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Rangely García for Money

The percentage of Americans who own stocks has been rising steadily for six years and just reached a high not seen since 2008.

A new poll from analytics company Gallup shows stock market participation is finally back to pre-Great Recession levels. What's more, older Americans are likely to be investing in the market more than ever before.

What the data says

Every year since 1998, Gallup has polled Americans about whether or not they owned stock. The company includes not just individual stocks in this measure, but also mutual funds and 401(k) or IRA investments.

Throughout the poll's first decade, about 60% or more Americans owned stocks in a given year, hitting a high of 64% in 2004. But after 2008, when the Great Recession saw the S&P 500 Index plunge in value by over 40%, interest in investing dropped and stock ownership remained well below the 60% mark for more than a decade.

Stock ownership reached a low of 52% in 2013, and then again in 2016. From 2012 until 2021, the share of people invested in the stock market held at or under 55%.

However, the newest poll shows that pre-Great Recession stock ownership trends are back once again. Here is what the poll found.

  • In 2023, 61% of Americans hold at least some stocks. That's the highest level of ownership since 2008.
  • Across age demographics, Gallup said stock ownership rates are essentially back to 2008 levels. However, it notes that older Americans are investing even more heavily in stocks in recent times. Of people over the age of 65, 63% own stocks in 2023, compared to 53% prior to 2008.
  • Only 41% of young adults (ages 18 to 34) now own stocks, a figure at least 20 percentage points smaller than any other demographic measured.
  • While 74% of married Americans are invested in stocks, only 48% of non-married people say the same. Likewise, 67% of employed people own stocks, as opposed to just 52% of unemployed people.
  • Income level understandably seems to have a strong correlation with stock ownership: 84% of Americans with over $100,000 in household income own stocks, compared to just 24% of people making less than $30,000 per year owning any stocks.

What it means

The Great Recession, as Gallup notes, gouged the stock market and played a major role in pushing Americans away from investing. The practice had remained in decline until bottoming out in 2016 at a 52% low point.

Since then, the share of stock-owning Americans has been slowly but surely climbing higher. As Gallup notes, though, this decade-long shaken faith in stocks meant that "many potential investors missed out on the recovery in stock values that peaked when the Dow Jones Industrial Average set a record daily closing price in January 2022." Indeed, since 2016, the Dow Industrial has climbed over 88% in value.

Watching this recovery since 2008, Gallup posits that Americans are becoming much more confident in their outlook toward stock investing. The company says it's likely that "stocks have again proven to be a solid long-term investment," and that income gains for Americans have provided greater means to invest.

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