Visualizing US Income Disparity, Or How The Rich Have Gotten Poorer For The Fifth Year In A Row
There was little of note in the annual US Census Bureau update titled "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States." The key number everyone hones in on in this report - the number of America living in poverty - is already well known courtesy of foodstamp data. Per the Census bureau this number was 46.2 million Americans in 2011 or "after 3 consecutive years of increases, neither the official poverty rate nor the number of people in poverty were statistically different from the 2010 estimates." Actually this statement is quite wrong as the foodstamp data speaks a very different story, but it is an election year, and most people are mathematically challenged. Either way of looking at it, 15% of the US population living in poverty is hardly a statistic to be proud of, regardless who is president. Which brings us to a second point: when looking at the wealth dispersion by percentile, Wharton economist Justin Wolfers commented that "The rich just keep getting richer." Actually, based on the Census data he was looking at this also is wrong, as the underlying series shows that both the household income of the uber-wealthiest 95th percentile, as well as the income spread between the 95th and 10th percentile, over the past 5 years has actually been going down. In fact, the average income of the richest disclosed percentile is $186,000, or the lowest since 1999. So yes, the rich may be getting richer, but it certainly is not based on Census data, which shows that the wealth of the top percentile has been not only flat but modestly declining for 12 years.
If anything, perhaps the Census Bureau should narrow down the top 5% percentile to the top 1% or better yet 0.1%, or best of all 0.00001%. Because the number of people truly getting richer in the current economy, is more and more limited to a few hundred people.