October 20th, 2011
12:27 PM ET

Who are the one percent?

occupy wall street top 1 percent top 1%

By Tami Luhby, CNN Money

Think it takes a million bucks to make it into the Top 1% of American taxpayers?

Think again. In 2009, it took just $343,927 to join that elite group, according to newly released statistics from the Internal Revenue Service.

Occupy Wall Street protesters have been railing against the Top 1%, trying to raise anger and awareness of the growing economic gap between the rich and everybody else in America.

But just who are these fortunate folks at the top of the income ladder?

Well, there were just under 1.4 million households that qualified for entry. They earned nearly 17% of the nation's income and paid roughly 37% of its income tax.

Collectively, their adjusted gross income was $1.3 trillion. And while $343,927 was the minimum AGI to be included, on average, Top 1-percenters made $960,000.

But the income threshold for this exclusive group changes every year, largely with the performance of the stock market, experts said.

In 2007, when times were good on Wall Street, one needed to have an adjusted gross income of more than $424,000 to get into the highest rank. But the stock market decline in recent years has helped lower that bar back to a level not seen since 2002.

"The further up you go, the wider swings you see," said Pete Sepp, spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union. "They have a great deal of wealth sunk into the markets, which can vary quite widely."

While much of the wealthy's income comes from capital gains on investments, bonuses on the job can also give people the needed boost.

Just what jobs are those?

Many workers in the securities industry in New York likely qualify for the Top 1%.

These folks, many of whom work only blocks from where protesters are gathering in Zuccotti Park, made an average salary of just over $311,000 in 2009, according to the state Comptroller's Office. (This figure does not take into account certain income, losses and deductions that make up adjusted gross income.)

A separate study found that financial professionals made up about 14% of the top rank in 2005.

Executives, managers and supervisors working outside of finance accounted for 31%, the largest share, according to an analysis by Jon Bakija of Williams College, Adam Cole of the Treasury Department and Bradley Heim of Indiana University. Medical professionals came in at 15.7%, while lawyers made up 8.4%.

Read on at CNN Money.

Post by:
Topics: Economy • Protests

soundoff (63 Responses)
  1. Sigh

    '1%' is a slogan. It's not actually the 1% that OWS is protesting against so much as the 0.1%, or the 0.01%.

    October 20, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Reply
    • Duh

      No, its the top 1%, 343,927 is an unnecessary amount of money to make

      October 20, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Reply
      • Southerner

        What gives you the right to dictate what is a "necessary amount of money to make"? If you don't want ot make that much then don't, What you fail to realize is that someone else making that much does not reduce your ability to do the same. It increases it.

        October 21, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
      • ZykPysk

        Spoken like a true lazy and incompetent person filled with self loathing and jealousy. What is it like to be so envious?

        October 23, 2011 at 6:23 am |
      • Vote Loud


        What is that magic "unnecessary amount of money to make"? $100,000, $200,000?

        Why does anyone even care what losers think?


        October 24, 2011 at 12:30 am |
      • Truth

        You idiots, that's not the point. DUh is right. The point is that it's a recession, the worst one since the great depression, millions of hard workers are out of work, and the 0.1%, the top people, the CEOs are thriving. THRIVING. They are doing better than they ever have in the last 30 years. Total money wise, and total percentage of money made. In the last 30 years the wages of the lesser people have stayed the same, while the wages of those on top, has INCREASED. And it's still increasing.

        And instead of these CEOs sacrificing for the good of their companies, instead they're cutting jobs of others first. These CEOs are making over 20 times what 1 worker in their companies often make.

        The 1% at $350,000 really aren't that bad. What's bad is the CEOs who are making 7 million a year, and their average worker is making 60,000 or less, and yet when push comes to shove, it's the worker that suffers and not the CEO. The point is that they aren't giving people the ability to work, and are hoarding the money for themselves.

        I'm not asking to make as much money as them, I'm only asking them to inflate my salary just slightly, and nowhere near the amount that theirs has grown.

        November 6, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
      • Renifer

        Who are the one percent?


        November 23, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
      • thought positive

        OK. So who gets to decide how much is too much? The government? YOU? Ha ha ha.

        January 15, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Vote Loud

      I may not be the "1%", but I sure as Hell NOT ONE OF THE 99%!

      October 24, 2011 at 12:27 am | Reply
      • Renifer

        Vote Loud wrote:
        "I may not be the "1%", but I sure as Hell NOT ONE OF THE 99%!"

        Yes, you are. You merely want to be one of the super super rich, and you are not, and never will be, so you shill for them in the hopes that this will make you feel better. Sadly, it's not working, as your anger at the group that you are a part of gives you away. It's sad that you have been so successfully propagandized. I feel sorry for you.

        November 23, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Renifer

      Folks have been suckered by these misleading numbers.
      The average *income* of the one percenters is $1,137,684 a year, well over a million.
      The average income of the top one onehudredth of one percent is 27 million.
      This skewed chart includes *everyone* above the one percent, inclusive. The fact that they pay *very little* in taxes in aggregate only underscores just how wrong and unfair the tax code is, and how the rich have redistributed the wealth for the last 30 years so successfully that they don't have to pay much, if anything, to the commons, yet they use the commons every day. The poor and middle pay 36% in taxes, and the top one percenters and above pay 17%, if they pay a dime. Most hide their money in the Caymans, or Switzerland, or Bahrain, or elsewhere, avoiding taxes altogether.
      The poor and middle class are unfairly shouldering the burden, and the average tax of the one percent at a mere 344 thousand is sickeningly pathetic, and should be changed. Welfare for the super rich is just wrong. The poor have had enough, and it's time to change this grand theft.

      November 23, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Reply
  2. macuy

    Trying to spin things around? Only 300k to join the top 1%? Tha't real funny and I think you just humiliated the top 1%,, thank you very much! News flash: top 1% being referred to by OWS don't count income in the thousands or millions BUT in the BILLIONS ($9,999,999,999.99) and TRILLIONS ($9,999,999,999,999.99). Based on your blog I don't think your math skills nor your calculator can go that high + the numbers might stagger you. Yes, some of them have income figures exceed the total population of the planet (6.9 billion). Please be part of the 1% it will explain your piece and would spare us all the embarassment that you don't have a clue.

    October 20, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Reply
  3. ah

    they're trying to play around the statistics.
    dont be fooled.

    October 20, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Reply
    • Renifer

      Wealth, Income, and Power by G. William Domhoff


      The top one percent now own 43% of all wealth in the US.
      The top five percent own an additional 29% of all US wealth.
      43+29 = 72%
      The top 20% own 85% of all assets.

      The numbers that this report shows prove that the stats that CNN came up with are bogus.

      November 23, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Reply
  4. ivan

    0.3 million to jion in the club? Ridiculous. I think the 1% sould be 0.1%, they are billionares.

    October 20, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Reply
    • Vote Loud

      Why not spend time building your nest egg for your future, rather than hating others that have...

      For it won't be long that it is the top 10% that they want to confiscate...

      Then 25%...


      Gimme, Gimme, Gimme!

      It is becoming obvious every day who the true greedy... those that want to confiscate wealth that they did not earn!

      October 24, 2011 at 12:33 am | Reply
      • John

        Agree Loud – as the oft quoted Margaret Thatcher said: "...The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money." With the bottom half paying almost nothing, and unemployment extended to almost a year on the dole, and 1/5th of America using food stamps – it would seem that we should all vote for people who want to fix it instead of those who want to name call and divide us into "classes" and turn us against each other. Politics has become a true barnyard – with all of the cast of ANIMAL FARM on display...

        May 21, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  5. MLB

    If you take a look at the source under the chart, you will see that the numbers come straight from the IRS. Now you guys want to claim that the article is using manipulated numbers because it flies in the face of what you believe or have been told to be true when it isn't. DENIAL is always the first response.

    October 20, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Reply
    • Vote Loud

      It is still CONFISCATING other peoples' property!!!

      October 24, 2011 at 12:35 am | Reply
      • sklein

        If collecting taxes is "confiscating other peoples' property" then we have a real problem. Remember Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendel Holmes quote "I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization."

        No taxes, no civilization. No argument. And remember, what is considered a "reasonable" amount of someone's income to pay in taxes is entirely the decision of the majority. If the minority decides they don't want to pay those taxes, they can certainly move their assets to some other country, but they have no right to overrule the majority in how that level of taxation is set.

        Perhaps the United States would be a more broken place without the top 0.1%, but I highly doubt that.

        November 6, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  6. Common Sense

    Dear MLB (person below not the league),
    1% is indeed a rallying cry, it is not to be taken as literally as this writer put it. The problem the protesters have is with the super wealthy elite that are pulling strings both on wall street and in washington. Educate yourself. Read "The Big Short". It is an amazing book about how these people took advantage of the real estate market and manipulated it to be set up to fail. They then put all their investments into a short (betting against the market) because they alone knew the crash was coming. They set it up that way. And then they had the government bail out whatever losses the banks incurred. Its bull and if people of the US really understood it there would be a full scale revolution happening against the government and wall street (we are getting there).

    October 21, 2011 at 12:10 am | Reply
    • gs3imagine

      "The Big Short" and other writings by those claiming to go to the "core" of the problem are in fact nibbling around the edges. The core is real simple: If you're knowingly abusing your power, be it financial, political, religious or otherwise, whether in the US or on a world stage, you are being found out, will be found out and will go down. "Occupy Wall street is a tiny sampling. The Arab Spring is a little bigger sample. What you're seeing is people tired of being oppressed, put down, pushed around and otherwise being told to sit down and shut up. It will happen until the world wakes up and rights itself. Like trying NOT to have a baby. It's coming, like it or not.

      October 21, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Reply
    • Vote Loud

      It was NOT the government that bailed them out...


      And the fools at OWS have no clue!!!

      October 24, 2011 at 12:36 am | Reply
      • Renifer

        Vote Loud wrote:
        "It was NOT the government that bailed them out...


        TARP, the bank bailout happened under George W. Bush, pushed hard by the Bush administration. It was a Republican executive branch that gave thieves 700 billion dollars to bail out the super rich, who then stole that money.
        Time to watch _Inside Job_ and _Margin Call_ and learn a few things. This theft happened because Republicans deregulated banking, and they stole from the public, deliberately.

        November 23, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
      • gbuddha2012

        the flunky politicians are bought and paid for by the rich and powerful... don't drink the TEA

        December 2, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  7. j. von hettlingen

    No doubt it's very desirable for many to belong to this exclusive club. If these top earners keep a low profile, the public doesn't know much about them. Yet many brag about their Patek Philipp watches, Ferraris and Picassos, bought with bonuses.

    October 21, 2011 at 8:32 am | Reply
  8. gs3imagine

    You're all missing the point here. Millionaires and above can afford to hire tax lawyers, sometimes an entire team of them, to get their TAXABLE INCOME down to a fraction of what they really haul in. This lower amount is what's REPORTED TO THE IRS. Be it charitable donations and/or other loopholes afforded to these fat cats via the current tax structure. So someone pulling in 2mil, with a sharp tax lawyer or two can conceivably report just 300K to the IRS for the year. The fact that these loopholes exist is at the very heart of what "Occupy" is all about. If you're the average Joe or Jane I'll forgive you for not getting this. But for Tami Luhby, a CNN Money reporter, it's inexcusable. It gives me the impression that she's writing sensationalism instead of news, omitting certain "facts" that would make the story complete. If that's the case, then she is just as ignorant as the rest of the "experts" who can't figure out why "Occupy" is actually gaining momentum.

    October 21, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Reply
    • Vote Loud

      If that was true... " The fact that these loopholes exist is at the very heart of what "Occupy" is all about. "...

      Then WHY would they not be in favor of the Fair tax or Cain's 999?

      There is "more to the story" as Paul Harvey used to say!!!

      October 24, 2011 at 12:40 am | Reply
  9. carole lane

    Everybody relies on banks, we think it's okay or unavoidable for this day and age, even though charging interest has ultimately never, ever caused anything but grief in the world. It is ironic that the followers of religions that most clearly condemn banking (usury) are banking's best supporters! Banking creates poverty, then throws a few bones to those from whom it stole, giving the appearance it is helping them. I wager that poverty would end if most everyone practiced their own religion and agreed to never use a bank again. That means default on loans and, instead, be truly responsible and pay what we owe back to those who actually need it. Yes, there probably will be chaos first, but everything good and worthwhile must "have a falling away first." A seed begins by falling to the ground and dying. What do your prophets say? "Babylon is fallen, is fallen."

    October 21, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Reply
  10. Vote Loud


    It is MY choice to "get a loan and pay interest" (value for value received) if I elect.

    Don't get a loan if you don't like it.

    Islamic banks don't charge "interest" on loan... based on religious reasons, so they pay fees.


    October 24, 2011 at 12:44 am | Reply
  11. Rivet

    Articles like this illustrate how and where the 1% will twist the truth to support there greed. Beware the spin doctors

    October 24, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Reply
  12. JNCohen

    This figure is misleading. The top 1% live off business profits and financial holdings. If you want an accurate view of the top 1%'s wealth, look at how much they have in financial assets. The top 1% is WAY richer than those who earn $343k a year: http://josephncohen.wordpress.com/2011/10/28/how-rich-is-the-top-1-theyre-much-richer-than-those-who-earn-343k-per-year/

    October 28, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Reply
    • gbuddha2012

      well said...

      December 2, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Reply
  13. icreepin

    First lets not suggest that tax loop holes arent avaliable for the “99%” of the population. They do and they are just as much on a % level as the loop holes for the “1%” of the population. The difference is the numbers that people work with .

    We all know people who after they have there deductions are able to claim a taxable income far less then what they make, so the question really isnt one tax bracket is paying more then the other tax bracket it has more to do with you have” X” group of people trying to rally and dispose “Y” group of people.

    Truly whats going on here is nothing more then what Hitler did in the 40’s to rally the german people around a common “enemy” so his views and leadership would be seen as the right ones not the people he was trying to knock from power.

    There is 0 reason for anyone to complain since everyone has the opportunity to make an above average income in the USA. But its easier to complain and try and get what someone else has rather then trying to buckle down and work hard and build one self up.

    November 2, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Reply
    • gbuddha2012

      most 1% salaries are grossed up, meaning they already have their taxes counted into their salaries... Plus there are deferred pensions which can put off tax payments indefinitely - they are crooks and liars who have stolen this country and the world... justice is coming

      December 2, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Reply
    • gbuddha2012

      alot a bs and apologetics for the plutocrats... time to take this country back

      December 2, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Reply
  14. Peggy

    I would like to know more about these folks. For example what is their PRE tax income – the top line. Adjusted Gross could be misleading I think. Generally folks in this category have very clever tax advisors – so what % do they actually pay in taxes?

    November 16, 2011 at 5:59 am | Reply
    • Renifer

      Peggy wrote:

      "I would like to know more about these folks. For example what is their PRE tax income – the top line. Adjusted Gross could be misleading I think. Generally folks in this category have very clever tax advisors – so what % do they actually pay in taxes?"

      The top 400 families have an average income of 270.5 million dollars a year, and most do not pay a dime in US taxes. If they do have investments in US based corporations, and earn income in the US, they pay a dividend tax, which is around 17%. But as I said, most don't pay US taxes at all. They hide their money using loopholes in the tax code. Republicans in the House recently fought hard for tax breaks for those that own private jets, saying that they should be allowed to pay next to nothing in taxes because of depreciation. It's bogus, of course.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Reply
    • gbuddha2012

      total effective tax rate on the 1-2% is 17.7%... and includes ALL their taxes

      December 2, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Reply
  15. gbuddha2012

    behind every fortune lies a crime... love to put these guys on a lie box and give it a go. guarantee you they're hiding alot - any of you 1% volunteer ?

    December 2, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Reply
  16. James Willoghby

    High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email ftsales.support@ft.com to buy additional rights. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e0ccdf4e-2b4d-11e1-9fd0-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz1hD7U7VkY

    I wonder what would happen in the USA all the currently private wealth were distributed evenly to any willing academic and civil servant persons who would sign up to put the money to work. Is there a manual out there they could study to figure out how to spend 20 years of 80 hour work weeks to start new enterprises or to keep existing ones running so all the while the employees and suppliers continue to get paid? Would those businesses need to be successful by any measure or would we continually print money like they did in USSR to keep them afloat and like we did with GM and the big banks and small banks for a short period of time? Perhaps we could put the post office in charge of everything in the economy. As another example imagine we put decent average achievers together with labor union bosses in charge of everything in the economy for one year and see where we end up after 12 months has passed. I doubt Americans would be happy with the result and no doubt murderers would rise in the economic ranks. My guess is the reasons for shouting out against the rich is because it might win an election and because of total ignorance about what it takes to economically manage small and large businesses. If they weren't seeking public glory does anyone think a US president would stay in that difficult job for life at the current pay rate?

    December 21, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Reply
  17. anttiR

    One percent of the earth would be exceeding about $20t/year. Think about that.

    January 10, 2012 at 5:57 am | Reply
  18. thought positive

    Who gets to decide how much is too much? The government? YOU? Ha ha ha.

    January 15, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Reply
  19. Michael Schmitt

    1% of the people earn 17% of the nation's income and paid roughly 37% of its income tax. And the losers clain that they are not paying their fair share? They are paying either 17X or 37X their "fair" share !!!

    March 19, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Reply
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