The nature of income inequality in the US and elsewhere is one of the biggest questions in contemporary economics and politics, with the Occupy Wall Street movement popularizing the division between the top 1% and the remaining 99% of earners.
Using 2012 American Community Survey household income data from the Minnesota Population Center’s IPUMS dataset, we estimated what income a household would need to earn (rounded to the nearest thousand) in order to be in the top 1% of the income distribution in each state:
There’s a divergence across the country in what it takes to be in the 1%. In the Northeast, top level incomes are in the area of a half million dollars, while in parts of the South and West, the cutoff is much lower.
These figures should be interpreted as being very rough estimates. Surveys like the ACS frequently have difficulties in capturing the true nature of the very top of the income spectrum. Recent research based on income tax records, like this remarkable slideshow by Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, can give us much more detailed insight into what’s going on with the super-rich.
If you want to know if you’re in the top or bottom half of your state, here are 2012 median incomes, as per the Census Bureau’s 2012 ACS estimates: