The term "investor class" used to conjure up images of full-bellied capitalists in corner offices. But the modern reality is that investors are everywhere. In 1980, less than 6% of Americans owned mutual funds. Now 69.2% of American families own their homes, and most people have other investments, too, from stocks to 401(k)s. A third of voters identify themselves as investors.
The Investor Class soared during the '90s boom when everybody from dot-com millionaires to cabbies in turbans was talking about their stocks. But even since the bust, its numbers continue to cut across income and education lines.
Republicans see opportunity in this growing bloc. "With $5,000 in stock, you become 18% more Republican," declares Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. No wonder President Bush has begun to roll out an Ownership Society agenda.
The very diversity that marks the Investor Class makes it hard to generalize about its political leanings. But these five investors in many ways typify the segments they represent.
By Richard S. Dunham in Washington and Ann Therese Palmer in Chicago