U.S. Income Inequality Reaches Record Extreme

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wealth disparity between the rich and everyone else in the United States has reached a new extreme, according to an economic study out of the University of California, Berkeley (UCB).


Last year, the top 10% of American society received more than half of the country’s total income, which was the highest level on record, economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty reported in their study.


They also found that the top 1% of earners collected more than 20% of all U.S. income in 2012. This development was one of the highest levels recorded since 1913, when the government established an income tax.


“The figures underscore that even after the recession the country remains in a new Gilded Age, with income as concentrated as it was in the years that preceded the Depression of the 1930s, if not more so,” Annie Lowrey wrote for The New York Times.


The wealthy prospered thanks to soaring stock prices, rising home values and surging corporate profits, the economists determined.


On the flip side, the rest of the nation has faced stagnant wages, or no employment at all due to persistently high joblessness.


“These results suggest the Great Recession has only depressed top income shares temporarily and will not undo any of the dramatic increase in top income shares that has taken place since the 1970s,” Saez wrote in his analysis of the data.


There was a sliver of good news for the 99%. Saez and Piketty reported that the incomes of this group grew 1% last year, which was better than 2009 through 2011 when there was no growth at all.


Contrast this modest gain with the fact that, in 2012, the total income of the top 1% jumped nearly 20%--and the earnings of the very richest, the 0.01%, rocketed more than 32%.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

The Rich Get Richer Through the Recovery (by Annie Lowrey, New York Times)

Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States (by Emmanuel Saez, UC Berkeley) (pdf)

Richest 7% Get Richer; Poorest 93% Get Poorer (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)   

Upset about the Richest 1%? The Top .000003% Own $25 Trillion (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Leave a comment