For Past Three Years, The Rich Saw Income Grow While Everyone Else Made Less

Income for households in the top five percent of American earners have grown by more than five percent over the past three years, according to a Center for American Progress analysis of newly released Census Bureau data. Yet those in the bottom four-fifths of income saw their earnings decline during that time period.

Overall income growth has been paltry since the recession, according to the Census report. After median household income fell for two years, it has leveled off, seeing virtually no growth over the past two. It was $51,017 in 2012, 8.3 percent lower than in 2007.

But the rich are doing far better. The top 5 percent was making $191,157 or more in 2012, while the bottom fifth made $20,599 or less. The Gini index, a measure of a country’s level of income inequality, has worsened by 5.2 percent since 1993, the first year with comparable data. Income inequality stayed at about the same level between 2011 and 2012, according to the new data.


Other recent data show similar trends. Economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty found that the top 10 percent of earners took home half of the country’s income, the largest amount on record. The trend took off in the 1970s, with the richest 20 percent of Americans seeing income grow by $2,550 through the 2000s but the bottom 20 percent seeing just $1,330.

The rich are also now much more likely to have a job than the poor. The gap between the employment rate for the highest income Americans and the lowest income ones is the widest in a decade.