- To be among the top 1% of income earners in your 40s, you need to pull in more than $US400,000 a year.
- Median incomes for people in their 40s hover around $US50,000, signalling vast income inequality.
- The wage gap between the top 1% of earners at ages 25 and 49 is $US336,000, but median incomes between the two ages differ by only $US11,000.
As a 25-year-old, reaching the top 1% of incomes in the age group is tough; you’d need to earn $US116,000 a year. Being in the 1% of earners at 35 is even harder, as you’d need to make $US291,000. By 45, though, it may seem downright impossible.
The top 1% of 45-year-olds pull in at least $US458,000 a year.
Income inequality has been growing in the US for decades — the bottom 50% of Americans saw zero income growth over the past 35 years, one analysis found. As the country’s richest get richer, America’s middle class has been gradually disappearing.
Consider the gap between those whose incomes fall in the top 1% and those who earn the median income at different ages. The gap between the top 1% of earners at ages 25 and 49 is $US336,000, but median incomes for the two ages differ by just $US11,000 (the median income for 25-year-olds is $US39,000, and $US50,000 for 49-year-olds).
Here is the full breakdown of the top 1% of incomes for people in their 40s:
To create this chart, Business Insider analysed data from the 2015 American Community Survey, an annual survey by the US Census Bureau that interviews about 1% of all US households about various economic, demographic, social, and housing characteristics.
The resulting breakdown shows that median incomes don’t seem to grow for earners between the ages of 40 and 49, while top-1% incomes jump from $US388,000 to $US452,000 over the 10-year period. That’s a 16.4% increase. After people hit their late 40s, top-1% incomes flatten out until age 65, when the data stops.
This analysis has limits, however — surveys like the ACS don’t capture everyone at the top, like celebrities and financiers, and some researchers prefer to use alternate forms of data, such as tax records, when studying those at the top of the income and wealth distributions.
Overall, however, the data offer a compelling snapshot of the distance between those comfortably at the top and those struggling in the middle.