Fall Waxing Harvest Moon
An interesting meeting last night in Paul’s new digs at 1818 Douglas, Harvey McKay’s first house and far less than a stone’s throw from Alan Page’s current one. Among the usual this and that of our lives–caring for parents, a son’s troubles, the Taj kitchen under construction, playing flag football with grandkids, we talked about wealth. It seemed to me our view of what constitutes wealth in the 3rd definition from the OED suffers from a stunning lack of perspective. I went hunting for some numbers.
The Woollys and our social circles represent, in general, at least the top 5% of both income and wealth. Not all of us, but most of us. We are wealthy, OED #3. By quite a large margin. Just sayin’.
Here are a few from:
Who Rules America?
In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2007, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.6% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one’s home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.7%. Table 1 and Figure 1 present further details drawn from the careful work of economist Edward N. Wolff at New York University (2010).
The US population is represented along the length of the football field, arranged in order of income.
Median US family income (the family at the 50 yard line) is ~$40,000 (a stack of $100 bills 1.6 inches high.)
–The family on the 95 yard line earns about $100,000 per year, a stack of $100 bills about 4 inches high.
–At the 99 yard line the income is about $300,000, a stack of $100 bills about a foot high.
–The curve reaches $1 million (a 40 inch high stack of $100 bills) one foot from the goal line.
–From there it keeps going up…it goes up 50 km (~30 miles) on this scale!
The Economic Library
The 1990s and early 2000s witnessed the
establishment of a growing body of work, increasingly precise,
describing how the income distribution has changed. This work can be
summarized in three points:
The distribution of pretax income in
the United States today is highly unequal. The most careful studies
suggest that the top 10 percent of households, with average income of
about $200,000, received 42 percent of all pretax money income in the
late 1990s. The top 1 percent of households, averaging $800,000 of
income, received 15 percent of all pretax money income.
In the longer view, the path of income
inequality over the twentieth century is marked by two main events: a
sharp fall in inequality around the outbreak of World War II and an
extended rise in inequality that began in the mid-1970s and accelerated
in the 1980s. Income inequality today is about as large as it was in the
Over multiple years, family income
fluctuates, and so the distribution of multiyear income is moderately
more equal than the distribution of single-year income.