Which America Do You Live In? – 21 Hard To Believe Facts About 'Wealthy America' And 'Poor America'

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog,

Did you know that 40 percent of all American workers make less than $20,000 a year before taxes?  And 65 percent of all American workers make less than $40,000 a year before taxes.  If you work on Wall Street, or have a cushy job with the federal government, or work for a big tech firm out on the west coast, life is probably pretty good for you right now.  But the truth is that most Americans are not living the high life.  In fact, most Americans are just trying to figure out how to survive from month to month. 

For many Americans, making a choice between buying food for your family and paying the light bill is a common occurrence.  But if you don't live in that America, hearing that people actually live like that may sound very strange to you.  After all, if everyone around you has expensive cars, the latest electronic gadgets and million dollar homes, the notion that America is in the midst of a very serious "economic decline" may seem very bizarre to you.

On Wednesday, the Dow hit a brand new record high, and Wall Street celebrated.  Since the financial crisis of 2008, stocks have been on an unprecedented run.  The top performers in the market have not just made millions of dollars - they have made billions of dollars.  Luxury apartments in Manhattan and beachfront homes in the Hamptons are selling for absolutely astronomical prices, and it seems like life in the good parts of New York City is one gigantic endless party these days.

Meanwhile, life is quite good down in Washington D.C. as well.  The wealth is spread more evenly, but on average the D.C. region actually has the highest standard of living of any major U.S. city.  The reason for this is the obscene growth of the federal government.  Over the past couple of decades, the U.S. government has ballooned in size and so have government salaries.  During one recent year, the average federal employee living in the Washington D.C. area received total compensation worth more than $126,000.

Out in the San Francisco area, Internet money is flowing like wine right now.  As I wrote about yesterday, top employees of companies such as Facebook and Twitter can make millions of dollars a year.  And if you were lucky to get a piece of the ownership of one of those companies at a very early stage, you are essentially set for life.

And with the Twitter IPO coming up, Internet euphoria is once again reaching a fever pitch.  For example, just check out what a 56-year-old administrative assistant said this week about why she is going to buy Twitter stock...

“I’m just buying because everybody’s talking about Twitter,” she said. “I’m just gonna take a chance.”

Is that how we should make our investment decisions from now on?

Just buy a stock because everybody's talking about it?

That is the kind of insanity that is going on in "wealthy America" right now.

Unfortunately, the gap between "wealthy America" and "poor America" is greater than ever before.

If you live in "wealthy America", what you are about to hear next will probably sound very strange.

CNN recently profiled a 44-year-old overnight prison guard named Delores Gilmore.  She works really hard, but a lot of times she simply does not have enough money to pay all of her bills...

"The first of the month, I pay the rent," she said. "The next check, I pay my light bills. Sometimes I won't pay my rent and I pay the light bill from last month -- if they cut if it off. Then I pay the rent the end of the month."

Her life consists of going to work, taking care of her children, going to sleep, and then getting back up and repeating that same cycle once again...

"I'm not fooling anybody," she told me. "I don't have any friends. And that's sad. ... I go to work, come home, take them where they gotta go, if they gotta go somewhere, come back home, lay down, go to work.


"That's what I do. All day, that's what I do."

Sadly, the truth is that tens of millions of Americans can identify with what she is going through on a daily basis.  In millions of families, both the husband and the wife work multiple jobs and it is still not enough.

If we truly did have a free market capitalist system, the entire country would be a land of opportunity and things would be getting better for everybody.  Unfortunately, that is not the case at all.  The following are 21 facts about "wealthy America" and "poor America" that are hard to believe...

#1 The lowest earning 23,303,064 Americans combined make 36 percent less than the highest earning 2,915 Americans do.

#2 40 percent of all American workers (39.6 percent to be precise) make less than $20,000 a year.

#3 According to the Pew Research Center, the top 7 percent of all U.S. households own 63 percent of all the wealth in the country.

#4 On average, households in the top 7 percent have 24 times as much wealth as households in the bottom 93 percent.

#5 According to numbers that were just released this week, 49.7 million Americans are living in poverty.  That is a brand new all-time record high.

#6 In the United States today, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined.

#7 Household incomes have actually been declining for five years in a row and total consumer credit has risen by a whopping 22 percent over the past three years.

#8 According to Forbes, the 400 wealthiest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans combined.

#9 The homeownership rate in the United States is at an 18 year low.

#10 The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have as much wealth as the bottom one-third of all Americans combined.

#11 18 percent of all food stamp dollars are spent at Wal-Mart.

#12 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the middle class is taking home a smaller share of the overall income pie than has ever been recorded before.

#13 It is hard to believe, but right now 1.2 million students that attend public schools in America are homeless.  That number has risen by 72 percent since the start of the last recession.

#14 One recent study discovered that nearly half of all public students in the United States come from low income homes.

#15 In 1980, CEOs at S&P 500 companies made 42 times as much as their employees did on average.  Today, CEOs at S&P 500 companies make 354 times as much as their employees do on average.  In fact, there are many CEOs that make more than 1000 times what the average employees in their companies make.

#16 U.S. families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

#17 At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.

#18 Today, the United States actually has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.

#19 Approximately one out of every five households in the United States is now on food stamps.

#20 The number of Americans on food stamps has grown from 17 million in the year 2000 to more than 47 million today.

#21 At this point, the poorest 50 percent of all Americans collectively own just 2.5 percent of all the wealth in the United States.

So which America do you live in?

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prains's picture

work HARDER serfs !!!!!!!

<---Oligarchs please register here


RichardP's picture

All those poor people should just get better jobs.


sangell's picture

I retired three years ago so someone else could have mine. While I'm in the good half of America right now my problem is that another decade of ZIRP and QE could dump me into the other half. Even sooner if the value of the dollar collapses. Like I said, I'm retired and not inclined to play in Bernanke's casino or finance the US government with free money. Give me market interest rates and Obama can have my goddamned Social Security checks when I start getting them next year.

hansg's picture

Are any Americans illegally crossing the border into Mexico yet so they can get a job and maybe send some money home? Because it sounds like this might become a viable option soon enough...

Disenchanted's picture

Why do you think they're building that fence?

new game's picture


top 1 percent will own gold

bottom 99 percent will own pulp

Muddy1's picture

Michael Snyder's articles sound more and more like Obama and his Socialist cronies everyday.  The undercurrent of this story is "we need to spread (redistribute) the wealth around".  His, "it's not fair that so few have so much attitude sucks.  If he doesn't like the way wealth is distributed around the country he should get a job that pays more and then he can have his piece of the pie.  Crybaby.  

One of my adult children graduated from college in 2008, had a job waiting, used her degree for 3.5 years and couldn't make enough to live on.  She moved to another state, worked in a totally different field, got laid off as work slowed down.  She worked 3 part time jobs to make ends meet and kept sinking financially.  She found another job with good pay and benefits and has been at that job for 11 months.  She is doing well.  My point being she didn't wait for the government to give her someone else's wealth, she didn't sit on her ass taking handouts, she didn't depend on a union to bail her out and still works in a non-union job.  People can get out of a bind without Snyder's implication of "it's not fair that you have more than me so I want the government to make us even and level the playing field" moronic mentality.  But then why am I surprised, he's a fricking lawyer which is the dominant profession of our dear leaders in DC.

ZeroPoint's picture

I applaud both you and your daughter for giving her the priceless inheritance of self worth and work ethic. Unfortunately, this result cannot be mass produced.

A Lunatic's picture

Only 47 more shopping days until Christmas........





Umh's picture

It seems like the wrong people are having children. "#14 One recent study discovered that nearly half of all public students in the United States come from low income homes."

plane jain's picture

Partly for certain.  There may be some causation vs. correlation going on there.  Maybe adaptation for some of the poorest. Kind of like old school agriculture only instead of having a lot of kids to work the farm, more kids means more government goodies.

Many couple of our acquaintance have no children, 2 couples have 1 child, and 2 have 2 children.  Below replacement rate in a group of 30 something middle class professionals.

Tasty Sandwich's picture

Old school agriculture = kids produced.

Today's welfare = kids consume.

I find it hard to believe having another kid to get an increased welfare benefit is worth it, unless you just completely neglect the kid.

I'd rather live in 2013 than 1713.  But things aren't looking so great for the world by 2023, so I won't be having kids.


I've heard Jim Rogers say he always thought kids were a waste of time and money.  He changed his mind once he became a billionaire and had done everything else.  I suppose it's a lot easier at that point.  Paying a nanny to take care of the routine stuff and not having to worry about providing leaves a lot more room for spending quality time with the child.

Mike in GA's picture

"I find it hard to believe having another kid to get an increased welfare benefit is worth it, unless you just completely neglect the kid."

That's pretty much how they do it...neglect, beatings, slapping and verbal abuse.

Go to any low income area grocery store or wal mart and just watch the parenting.

That being said, you MUST have your own child.  Please don't let the negatives of poor parents and a less than optimum national outlook dissuade you from the greatest joy life offers.  When I was young I had the same thoughts but became a  parent anyway.  Today I am a grandfather and my joy is exceeded by the wonder and miracle of new life and grandchildren whose eyes light up when they see 'Grandaddy!'

Be fruitful and multiply.  Growing old is happier with kids around.


RichardP's picture

Isn't that kind of self-centered?  Creating life where none previously existed, just so you can be happier?  What about the emotions that will be experienced by the life created for your emotional benefit.  Do you suppose they will be as happy in the life ahead of them as you are now (assuming all the disasters come true that have been predicted in this space)?

aldousd's picture

Nobody should ever have any children, ever, by that standard. Life sucks, then you grow up, then life sucks even more. I don't think only rich people should have children. Even though that's probably not what you'd admit where you were going with this, it's kind of implied. I also don't believe anyone should get welfare. Nobody. So take that for what it's worth.

HomeBrewPrepper's picture

You should not have children if:
-.people don't know if your pregnant or just fat
- you smoke
- your not married or in a long term committed relationship.
- you still live at home
- you make minimum wage
- you don't know who your baby daddy is

I'm sure there is plenty more I can think of

llewelyn moss's picture

Can you have children if you don't know the difference between "you're" and "your"?

SeattleBruce's picture

How about this: teach your kids well, and be responsible (don't have too many, adopt, help others to parent well by being involved in your neighbors life, at church, etc.)  Our kids and grandkids are and should be why we care about this damn mess (and the assumed disasters to come we try to get our heads around in this space every day.)

zuuma's picture

Sooner or later the "Childless Cohort" always trot out the "having kids is selfish" thing.

That would be the Japanese model, no?  Hows that demographic suicide thing going for them?

I used to puzzle about why the childless said that & even wondered if it were true.

It might be for a few people -- like barren & soon-to-be-barren single women, a' la Madonna -- certainly not for most.

Having kids is actually pretty terrifying. The responsibilities are so vast.
Hardly the same as aquiring some expensive status symbol to show off to aqaintences.

If I had remained childless, I'd have a LOT more money & stuff, now.
The selfish path: "More stuff for me!"

I used to be like that, but now give away my stuff to the kids.

Such a modern problem, too.
Not that many years ago, there wasn't much birth control. Kids happened a lot. Couldn't stop 'em.

Anyway, when someone says having children is "selfish" I now recognize what that is: It's projection.

I guess I could have simply bought an expensive dog. 

Nothing selfish about that, right?

zuuma's picture

And here's a baloon for the kids!

alien-IQ's picture

What would you suggest? Requiring a minimum income to be allowed to have children? And what happens if after you've had the children you fall below that threshold? Should the children be taken from you?

Carl Popper's picture

How about dont have kids unless you can pay for them?

How about as a condition of accepting welfare food stamps and subsidized housing you have to be on birth control?

It is immoral to have children you cant take care of.

alien-IQ's picture

Are you assuming that having kids when you are financially secure is some sort of guarantee that you will always be financially secure? Do you not know anyone that went broke? What do you do about their kids? Take them away because they can no longer afford them?

It's a child, not a car that can be repoed and resold.

stacking12321's picture

no one said anything about taking kids away from anyone, that is something you made up entirely.

but, carl is absolutely correct, it's a problem for society when the least responsible people are reproducing in greater numbers, and expect others should be responsible for raising their hellspawn.


deflator's picture

You will find a way to take care of your children. That is what we do.

plane jain's picture

Not directed at me, but I would vote for education on childrearing and the financial facts of life as part of the high school curriculum, free readily available birth control.  I could even go for a cash incentive (student loan payent?) for women not having a baby before they are 24 and have some chance of being financially independent, or at least have fewer years left to reproduce.

I'm a parent, love my child, and think children are a blessing.  But they are also a responsibility.

alien-IQ's picture

You make a more reasonable case and I agree with much of it. What I am not in favor of is this idea of mandatory minimum income in order to be allowed to have children. I just find it amazing that some of the very people that perpetually rail against "central planning" seem to advocate for the most extreme form of central planning imaginable: Government mandated minimum incomes in order to be allowed to have a child. To me that is not only insane, it is insanely cruel.

I realize that many have a child and then find themselves in way over their heads and abandon the child. That is a tragedy. But how many people have turned their lives around BECAUSE they had a child? And for how many people, yes particularly poor people, is their child the only ray of hope remaining in their lives? Are we cruel enough to take that away from them because they aren't rich enough? Since when did having money equate to being a good parent?

stacking12321's picture

again, you are putting words in other peoples' mouths.

it is dishonest, and a straw-man argument.

no one said anything about "mandatory minimum income", or a government enforced "solution".

just because some have pointed out what a major problem for society is, you jumped the gun and assumed that they are advocating some government law or other - absolutely not true!

i agree with carl as to what the problem is, but government (extortion by thugs with badges and guns) is *never* the solution, it only makes problems worse.


SeattleBruce's picture

"free readily available birth control."

I agree with your comments - but think this is not the best or only approach.  Having a good relationship with your children, where they can talk to you, and encouraging self control in their own self interest - works wonders in tandem.

Georgiabelle's picture

There was a study that came out recently that found that smarter women tend to have fewer children. My personal theory on why this is true is that highly intelligent women are more likely to attend college, where they are steeped in a culture of narcissism and nihilism, blunting their desire to do something as inherently unselfish and life-affirming as bearing and raising children. This is especially tragic given how badly our civilization needs for the brightest and best to reproduce. We are so screwed.

Agent P's picture

Me too, but the club's getting smaller.



You post one fucking word,

and you mis-spell it?

You're certainly not john 'IQ' public

Yenbot's picture

eye before ee eggcept aftor cee

he gots it right!

Bollixed's picture

That saying receives a lot more weight than it deserves...

quadcap's picture

unless it sounds like ayy as in neighbor and weigh (and a bunch of other exceptional cases which you just have to learn one at a time...)


chemystical's picture

How do you know he that didn't spell it correctly?   Oh, I see!  You presume that he intended to spell 'neither'.  If that's the case, then his communication was effective...

...bc u knw exctly wtf he wuz tryng to cnvey 2 u azzhole.

therevolutionwas's picture

82% of food stamps are not spent at Wal Mart.  I take it the 18% at Wal Mart is for food and stuff.  The rest is spent.........where?  These poor folk on food stamps.  I retired and took a 50% income reduction.  Foodstamp folk have to take a 6% cut;  they will end up rioting it will be such a hardship.  If I could, I would spit on social security payments and send it back.

Umh's picture

You can send it back or better still not apply for it in the first place. So go ahead if it makes you feel better.

alien-IQ's picture

Let me see if I understand this correctly: You are upset that you had to take a 50% pay cut because you RETIRED? Really? Do you see anything wrong with your statement?

StychoKiller's picture

How, pray tell, did you gather that the Poster was "upset?"

Disenchanted's picture

re: "The rest is spent.........where?"

Just a wild guess here, but is it on lattes at Starbucks? Oh that was just in Oregon, my bad.

g&#039;kar's picture

#17 At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.


......and the taxpayer subdizes that person's wages with free stuff so the corporations don't have to pay a real wage and make those dollar menus reflect the true costs.

alien-IQ's picture

Seems like it's the corporations getting the real subsidy there.

aldousd's picture

You might be right, but corporations are just doing what they do: living in their environment. It shouldn't surprise anyone that a corporation is designed to make money, because they are. They always have been. It's that design that pays the employees salaries, and allows the employees to spend money in your good old-fashioned mom and pop buy-local-and-tarriff-the-fuck-out-of-the-world-or-you're-downright-unamerican stores. So get over it. Next.

Disenchanted's picture

re: "but corporations are just doing what they do: living in their environment."

Right, after they bought off enough legislators to create that environment.

MilwaukeeMark's picture

Perhaps you meant your post for the Huffington Post. People on
this blog have a minimal understanding of economics. That includes the concept that employees are paid based upon the skill sets they bring to the marketplace, not upon some utopian concept of wealth redistribution.

g&#039;kar's picture

Yes, I was a closet marxist until now.