The One Percenters

October 6, 2000

Current estimates of how much annual income it takes to qualify for the "wealthiest one percent" of taxpayers -- who pay roughly a third of personal federal income taxes -- vary between $300,000 and $462,053. Whatever the cutoff figure used, few of the top-earning households neatly fit stereotypes.

According to a semiannual study by U.S. Trust:

  • Among those making $300,000 or more, 46 percent have earned their money from a self-owned business, while only 10 percent have inherited their wealth.
  • Moreover, 33 percent earned their money from corporate employment, while 29 percent made their money from a professional practice.
  • The typical affluent American averages a 56-hour workweek, has worked for 29 years and comes from a family background described as poor or lower or middle class.

In other words, they are working Americans, like everyone else. A few years ago, many of them were poor -- and a few years from now, many of them will earn less than enough to qualify for the one percent.

Source: Rachel Emma Silverman, "Wealthy 1 Percent, Feeling Oppressed, Tell Gore: Don't Tread on Us," Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2000.

 

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