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The stock market is back, but for whom?

It's true that household wealth has rebounded strongly in the past few years and is pushing to record highs. According to Federal Reserve data, the net worth of households and nonprofits has increased by more than $18 trillion from their lows in early 2009.

But most of this gain has been in the stock market. And as with housing, most of the wealth has accumulated to the richest Americans.

Before the recession, the top 1% owned nearly 35% of all wealth in the United States. The top 20% owned 85%. The middle 20% owned just 4%.

It's gotten worse. The chart above compares the drop in Gallup's measure of stock market participation with the rise in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX). What this means is that since the S&P 500 suffered its harrowing drop to 666 in March 2009, the average household has been steadily pulling money out of investments. Those households lost on the way down yet they haven't benefited from the market's rebound.

This is fairly typical of what happens in market downturns, and it's too easy to say the middle class just made a bad call. Families struggling with lost jobs and lower wages in the recession often had no choice but to tap investments to get by.

So even though corporate profits are riding high in this post-recession era, the middle class isn't seeing the gains.