Yglesias

Who’s Rich? The Data

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CREDIT:

Apparently the question of how much money you need to make in order to qualify as rich came up last night at Saddleback. Phil Klinker chimes in with some data:

—In 2006, the median household income was $48,201. That means half of all households made less than this amount and half made more.

—For family households, the median was just shy of $60,000. For married couples households, the median was $69,716.

—Households making over $133,000 were in the 90th percentile.Households making over $174,000 were in the 95th percentile. This means that Obama’s line of $150,000 probably hits the top 7-8 percent of household incomes.

—The data on those making above McCain’s line of $5 million dollars aren’t readily available, but those making over $1.6 million are in the top 0.1 percentile (that’s the top one-tenth of one percent). Overall, there are only 146,000 households making over $1.5 million and only 11,000 with incomes over $5.5 million.

A couple of additional points. It’s probably useful for these purposes to distinguish between retired and non-retired people for these purposes. As in other wealthy societies, a pretty large chunk of Americans are retire and retired people tend to have lowish incomes. This drives down median income and creates a situation where most employed people are above average. A second point is that non-citizens (immigrants) and many ex-felons aren’t allowed to vote. People in these categories tend to be poorer-than-average. On top of that, low-SES people vote at lower rates than high-SES people. Consequently, the electorate is substantially higher-income than the actual population, and other measures of political influence (especially, but not by any means exclusively, including campaign contributions) are highly skewed toward high-SES people.

Beyond all this, it’s my strong sense that people probably have considerations of wealth rather than income in mind when they think about who’s rich. Someone “earning” $90,000 a year out of his trust fund (a “trust-fund scumbag” to coin a phrase) while not participating in the labor force is richer than someone earning $115,000 a year at a law firm while paying off college and law school loans.