NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Unnoticed: Rich Getting Richer Under Clinton

December 22, 1997

During the Reagan years, some in the media charged that government policies were skewed to favor the rich. But recent data establish that wealthy households are trumping poorer household in terms of income under President Clinton -- a fact seldom noted in the media, say press-watchers.

In constant 1996 dollars, here's how the figures shape up, according to Census Bureau data:

  • Between 1980 and 1989, household income for the poorest one-fifth of families rose from $8,547 annually to $8,780.
  • By 1996, it had sunk back to $8,596.
  • Meanwhile, the annual income of the richest fifth of the nation rose from $87,797 in 1980 to $115,514 in 1996.
  • In other words, the wealthiest people were making 10.3 times more than the poorest quintile of households in 1980 -- but 13.4 times as much in 1996.

Moreover, the poverty rate is still higher than at the end of the 1980s, and the number of people considered "very poor" -- earning less than the poverty threshold -- actually increased by more than 600,000 in 1996.

Some economists attribute the growing gap between richest and poorest to the demand for skilled workers. Jobs in professional, technical and managerial occupations rose from 1 in 6 in 1950 to about 1 in 3 in 1996.

Source: Ed Rubenstein, "Right Data," National Review, December 22, 1997.


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