In 2011, 4.48 percent of all income in the United States was captured by the top 0.01 percent of Americans — a group of less than 16,000 households (or “tax units” in IRS parlance). That’s actually down from a peak of 6.04 percent in 2007. Of the top 10 years for the top 0.01 percent, eight have come since 2000; the other two were 1928 and 1929, right before the Great Depression.
The average member of the top 0.01 percent made $23,679,531 in 2011; the cutoff for membership in the group was $7,969,900. That’s a good deal less than 2007, when the average member of the group made $38,016,760. For comparison, the average member of the bottom 90 percent made $30,437 in 2011 and $35,173 in 2007.
Until the 1970s, the bottom 90 percent had actually seen its income grow more than any other income group. The income gap was shrinking. But the ultra-rich quickly reversed that trend. In 2007, the top 0.01 percent had an average income almost seven times that of 1917; the average income of the bottom 90 percent had barely tripled. The country has grown more unequal, not less, since then.