The haves and the have-nots

Most Americans are unaware of how unequally wealth is distributed in this country. As of 2007, the top 1% of Americans had a net worth of 34.6% (more than $12 trillion) and held 49.7% of all the investment assets according to sociologist William Domhoff and the IRS. These wealth-holders take home almost one-quarter of the national income (24%). More than 1.3 million of them are men, 0.97 million are women; 21.3% are under 50 years of age; 50% are married.

The same data indicate that in 2007, California had the most residents with a net worth of at least $2 million, followed by New York, Florida, New Mexico, and Texas. Illinois ranked sixth. However, if you consider the concentration of wealth alongside the population of each state, Wyoming ranks first followed by Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, California, South Dakota, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts.

Facts about the Rich

  • The top 1% owns 40% of the nation’s wealth.
  • The top 1% owns half of the country’s stocks, bonds and mutual funds.
  • The top 1% of Americans have only 5% of the nation’s personal debt.
  • The top 1% of Americans have an average income of $1.5 million.
  • The top 1% earned half of total U.S. economic growth over the period 1993-2007.
  • The top 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.
  • In 2009, the CEOs of major U.S. corporations made on average 263 times more than the average American worker.
  • For the rich, most income does not come from “working”: in 2008, only 19% of the income reported by the 13,480 individuals or families making more than $10 million annually came from wages and salaries.
  • The richest Republican member of Congress is Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, worth $294.21 million.
  • The richest Democratic member of Congress is Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, worth $193 million.

Source: Obtained from For a complete list click here.

When you look at the map below you begin to wonder if America is still the wealthiest country. More than one fourth of Americans in each state earned less than $10,000 in 2007. The South has been hit the hardest while the Midwest and pockets of the Northeast are doing marginally better.  Mississippi ranks lowest, followed by Louisiana, West Virginia, New Mexico, and Texas. New Hampshire has the smallest percentage of people earning less than $10,000 followed by Minnesota, Wyoming, Nevada, Maryland, Connecticut, Hawaii, Vermont, and Wisconsin. In Illinois, 31.5% of the population earned less than $10,000 in 2007.

Facts about the Poor

  • In 2008, nearly 43.6 million Americans lived in poverty (about 13.2% of the population), 12.9 million of whom were children.
  • 2009 saw the largest increase in the poverty rate over a single year since the U.S. government began calculating poverty figures back in 1959.
  • The U.S. poverty rate is the third highest among developed nations tracked by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
  • In June 2011, the number of Americans on food stamps surpassed 41 million, the highest in history. Households receiving food stamps  increased 20.28% from 2010 to 2011.
  • Nearly 1 in 6 Americans has no health insurance (49.9 million), almost 10% (7.3 million) of whom are children.
  • More than 45% of Americans doubling-up and living with their parents or roommates have incomes below poverty level.

       Source: Obtained from

What Percent are You?
Are you curious to know what percent you are? The New York Times has developed an interactive mapping tool to figure out what percent you fall under based on your geographic location and household income shown across 344 different zones across the country. Click here to check what percent you are.


Author: Nandhini Gulasingam

Nandhini Gulasingam is a Senior Analyst for IT Solutions at the Social Science Research Center (SSRC) where she manages GIS, database, web development projects for the SSRC and is developing data visualization techniques for use in the social and behavioral sciences. She is also an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Geography where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

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