Inequality: made in the USA

(Not) spreading the wealth

The Washington Post, Saturday, June 18, 2011

Growing share of income for the rich

Inequality in the U.S. has has grown steadily since the 1970s, following a flat period after World War II. In 2008, the wealthiest 10 percent earned almost the same amount of income as the rest of the country combined.

Share of nation’s income including capital gains:

The top 0.1 percent of the population (those making about $1.7 million or more) saw the sharpest increase in income share, taking home 2.6% of the nation’s earnings in 1975 and 10.4% in 2008.

Top 0.1% 152,000 $5.6 million +385%
Top 0.1-0.5% 610,000 $878,139 +141%
Top 0.5-1% 762,000 $443,102 +90%
Top 1-5% 6.0 million $211,476 +59%
Top 5-10% 7.6 million $127,184 +38%
Bottom 90% 137.2 million $31,244 -1%

Rising executive pay

CEO pay began to grow around the same time as income equality in the U.S. and has increased about fourfold since 1970, while average wages for all workers have remained relatively flat. Defenders of executive pay levels say the higher salaries are justified as the size and profits of companies grow.

Compared with other countries

Although the gap between the top earners and everyone else has risen in several other nations, the growth has been more pronounced in the United States.

SOURCES: The World Top Incomes Database and reports by Jon Bakija, Williams College; Adam Cole, U.S. Department of Treasury; Bradley T. Heim, Indiana University; Carola Frydman, MIT Sloan School of Management and NBER; Raven E. Molloy, Federal Reserve Board of Governors; Thomas Piketty, Ehess, Paris; Emmanuel Saez, UC Berkeley and NBER. GRAPHICS: Alicia Parlapiano – The Washington Post. Published June 18, 2011. or or

Photograph by Margaret Bourke-White, Louisville bread line, 1937: or or

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