A huge share of US economic growth during the past 30 years has gone to the top one-hundredth of 1 percent of the wealthiest Americans, who now make an average of $27 million per household, according to new Mother Jones analysis of varied governmental and academic data. In contrast, the average income for the bottom 90% of the US population is $31,244.
Mother Jones analysis shows a more than 400% jump in income between the bottom 90% and top 1-10%, who average $164,467. This figure increases by about nine times to almost $1.14 million for the top 2%, and then almost triples to about $3.24 million for the top 0.1 to 0.01%, before again increasing almost nine times for the very top of the US economic stratosphere.
The richest 10% of the US population control about 73% of the nation’s wealth, with the richest 1% accounting for almost 35%. The bottom 90% control about 27% of US wealth. Mother Jones advises these figures do not account for the housing crash, which likely had a further negative effect on the bottom 90%, who have 65% of their wealth tied up in their homes, compared to the top 1%, who only have 10% of their wealth comprised of housing.
The wealthiest 1% of the US population saw their average household income quadruple from $500,000 in 1979 to almost $2 million in 2007, using 2007 pretax dollars. In contrast, the top 20% saw mild income growth during that time and the remainder of the population had essentially flat growth.
Using 2007 post-tax dollars, the wealthiest 1% of the US population increased their share of the nation’s income 120% between 1979 and 2007. The top 20% grew their share about 30%, while every other income group decreased their share. Most notably, the bottom 20% lost about 30% of their share of the nation’s income.
The actual distribution of US wealth in 2009 placed more than 80% of total wealth in the hands of the wealthiest 20%, with the least wealthy 40% having virtually no share. On average, Americans think the wealthiest 20% control a little less than 60%, and would prefer a distribution that placed roughly 30% of the nation’s wealth in the hands of the top 20%.
In both Americans’ perceived and ideal distribution situations, the bottom 40% would gain the most from the reduction of wealth in the hands of the richest 20%.
Thirty-five percent of Americans name unemployment as the most important problem facing the US, according to results of a recent Gallup Poll. This is the highest percentage since the economic slowdown began in December 2007 and higher than at any point since October 1983 (41%). Unemployment is the most important problem for the second month in a row, with the economy ranking second and healthcare third.
About the Data: Mother Jones analyzed data from sources including University of California-Berkeley, Bard College, Federal Reserve, Congressional Budget Office, Harvard Business School and Duke University.
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