When we talk about the “one percent,” we’re reaching for a concept of money that extends far beyond earnings.
The richest one percent of Americans had an average wealth of $14 million in 2009, around the time that the Occupy Wall Street movement formed. These folks aren’t necessarily earning paychecks; they have money that makes money. They generally have assets in home equity, stocks and other investments, which outpace their cash income. For the vast majority of Americans, this level of wealth feels almost astonishingly out of reach.
But, even if we restrict our look at the “one percent” to top earners, we’re talking about a lot of money. Of course, salaries vary widely across factors like industry and region.
The real '1%' don't necessarily earn paychecks. But even the top 1% of earners make serious bank.
Earnings For the 1 Percent by Geographic Region
Some states and metropolitan areas have much higher income inequality than others. Here are a few key findings from a report that breaks down income inequality statistics by state.
- There is less income inequality in rural areas. The researchers note larger income gaps in suburbs and urban areas.
- The top 1 percent of earners in West Virginia earn less than they do in any other state. They make, on average, $488,634 per year. That’s a lot of money, to be sure. But, it’s only about one-fifth of what top earners made in the highest-earning state.
- Earnings for the bottom 99 percent in West Virginia are $34,407 on average. The top 1 percent of income earners here take home 12.4 percent of all the income in the state.
- The average annual earnings of the 1 percent are the smallest in the states of West Virginia, Mississippi ($565,813), New Mexico ($593,739), Maine ($612,494) and Kentucky ($619,585).
- The three highest-earning states, as far as the one percent are concerned, are Connecticut ($2,402,339), Wyoming ($2,118,167) and New York ($2,006,632).
- In Connecticut, where the top 1 percent of income-earners make more than anywhere else, the bottom 99 percent earn $56,445 annually. The top 1 percent is taking home 29.7 percent of the income in the state.
Income Inequality Is Getting Worse
According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute, income inequality has risen in every single U.S. state since the 1970s. And, in 15 states, the top 1 percent captured all of the income growth between 2009 and 2013. In 24 states, including those 15, the top 1 percent captured at least half of all income growth during those post-recession years. Another 10 states saw a double-digit income-gain for the 1 percent while the bottom 99 percent actually experienced a decrease in income.
These discrepancies are huge. In 2013, the top 1 percent of income earners in the U.S. made 25.3 times as much as the bottom 99 percent.
To fix the problem, the report’s authors write:
We need policies that return the economy to full employment, return bargaining power to U.S. workers, and reinstate the cultural taboo on allowing CEOs and financial-sector executives at the commanding heights of the private economy to appropriate more than their fair share of the nation’s expanding economic pie.
The Top 1 Percent Worldwide Is Getting Richer
Income and wealth inequality around the world is even worse than what’s going on here in the United States. The latest report from Oxfam reveals some startling realities.
- The wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population has fallen by 38 percent since 2010.
- Women are disproportionately impacted by wealth and income inequality on a global scale.
- Wealth inequality is increasing globally.
- The wealthiest 1 percent now own more than the entire wealth of the 99 percent.
“Oxfam is calling for urgent action to tackle the extreme inequality crisis which threatens to undermine the progress made in tackling poverty during the last quarter of a century,” the report states. “As a priority, it is calling for an end to the era of tax havens which has seen the increasing use of offshore centers by rich individuals and companies to avoid paying their fair share to society. This has denied governments valuable resources needed to tackle poverty and inequality.”
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