Report: The Rich Are Now Richer Than Ever


Rich people in America are richer than ever, according to a new Paris School of Economics study.

The report found that the top ten percent of earners took in more than half of the country’s total income in 2012, the highest level since the government began keeping records a hundred years ago, the New York Times reported Tuesday. The study, by economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, also found that the top one percent alone took in more than one-fifth of all income earned by Americans, the most since 1913.

Here is what that looks like, via the Times:

The data is just the latest in a string of reports over the past couple years illustrating how gains from the economic recovery have gone to the upper crust.

Meanwhile, the share of people with a job or looking for a job is at its lowest level since 1978, middle class wages are flat, and working-poor wages have dipped. More depressing details from the Times:

Mr. Piketty and Mr. Saez show that the incomes of [the 99 percent] stagnated between 2009 and 2011. In 2012, they started growing again—if only by about 1 percent. But the total income of the top 1 percent surged nearly 20 percent that year. The incomes of the very richest, the 0.01 percent, shot up more than 32 percent.

The new data shows that the top 1 percent of earners experienced a sharp drop in income during the recession, of about 36 percent, and a nearly equal rebound during the recovery of roughly 31 percent. The incomes of the other 99 percent plunged nearly 12 percent in the recession and have barely grown—a 0.4 percent uptick—since then. Thus, the 1 percent has captured about 95 percent of the income gains since the recession ended.

Why? Mostly because of rising home values, stock prices, and corporate profits—all of which disproportionately benefit the already rich.

As Annie Lowry noted at the Times, “[E]ven after the recession the country remains in a new Gilded Age, with income as concentrated as it was in the years that preceded the Depression of the 1930s, if not more so.”

Fact:

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  • Erika Eichelberger is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. She has also written for The NationThe Brooklyn Rail, and TomDispatch. Email her at eeichelberger [at] motherjones [dot] com.