# What is the top 1 percent?

How much does an individual need to make in order to be in the top 1 percent? How many top 1 percent earners are in this country?

The second question is easy: Given there are about 450 million people in the US, 1% of that number is roughly 4.5 million.

Here’s a helpful plot of data from 2010. It lacks the resolution you need to see the top 1 percent of household incomes, but it does show that to be in the top 2%, you need a household income above \$250,000.

That data is seven years old now, and it’s also averaged across the entire US. Here’s data from 2015 for several different US cities; the cutoff varies between \$383,000 and \$609,000 depending on which city we’re talking about.

Note also that this is household income, and you asked about individual income. This might make a difference, since (I suspect) many high-income households have two individual earners.

From various sources on the internet to be in the top 1% of households your household needs to make about \$460,000 a year.

I think you’re overestimating the population of the US. The Census Bureau says it’s about 325 million.

I believe you’re looking for the top 0.1% not the top 1%.

Income data is sampled by the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. Latest data available is for 2015.

Lower bound for the top 1% of individual income was in the range of \$240,000 - \$290,000 , depending on who exactly you are choosing to include in your count (age ranges, employment statuses, etc…)

It’s a little tricky because married couples often file a single tax return. And much of the survey data covers entire households.

How about top 1% worldwide. Lot’s of dirt poor people out there in world. I’m thinking I might make the top 1% of humanity.

There’s also a big difference between top 1% income and top 1% wealth. Many of the top 1% wealthy folks may have little or even no traditional income per se, they have just amassed huge amounts of net worth that makes the top 1% income earners look like paupers in comparison. So while the top 1% income may be somewhere around 10x the median, the top 1% net worth is more like 100x the median.

If you live in the US and have an income near or above the US median, there’s a good chance you do.

I was actually there for about six months. Worst job ever.

I don’t really know what constitutes “the top 1 per cent” but I know for sure it’s NOT me

Some rough numbers:
\$32,000 is the global 1%,\$30,000 is the US median (mean: \$44,500). So yeah, the chances are pretty great.

I think you are both overestimating the number of wage earners there are in the US.

The main thing to realize, is that “one percenters” is a slang political term, which came to the fore, due to a surprising number of fools who actually believe that the most wealthy people are best off when they entirely ignore, or even directly sabotage the interests of the less wealthy.

Here are some 2012 statistics from the IRS [pdf] which may be helpful.

Altogether 9043 Gigadollars of Adjusted Gross Income was reported on 136.1 million Individual Tax Returns. (Dependents’ returns and returns filed just for certain credits were not included.) Dividing \$9043G by 136.1 M households yields \$66,444 average household income as shown in the following chart at “All.”

Each line in this chart shows cohort name (e.g. “Top 0.001%”), number of households in the cohort, total earnings of the cohort in billions of dollars, and average earnings of households in the cohort. Below each cohort is the AGI minimum needed to join that cohort. I’ve added lines like “1 to 0.1” to show subsets of the cohorts defined by IRS. For example, if you aspire to the Top 1% so your income averages \$1.45 million, be aware that this cohort includes the 0.1, 0.01 and 0.001 cohorts as well. If you aspire only to “Top 1% but not Top 0.1%” your average earnings will be only \$768,000.

Be aware that these statistics show only the IRS’s AGI, so do not reflect full wealth (e.g. unrealized capital gains) or income (e.g. business “expenses”).

``````

**Top 0.001%       1361         219      \$161m**
Thresh \$62.07M

**Top 0.01%       13610         497      \$36.8m**
Thresh \$12.10M
0.01 - .001     12250         278      \$22.7m

**Top 0.1%       136100        1017      \$7.47m**
Thresh \$2.16M
0.1 - 0.01     122500         520      \$4.66m

**Top 1%      1,361,000        1980      \$1.45m**
Thresh \$434.7k
1 to 0.1    1,225,000         963      \$786k

**Top 2%      2,722,000        2451      \$900k**
Thresh \$285.9k
2 to 1      1,361,000         471      \$346k

**Top 5%      6,805,000        3328      \$490k**
Thresh \$175.8k
5.0 - 2     4,083,000         877      \$214.8k

**Top 10%    13,610,000        4332      \$318k**
Thresh \$125.2k
10 - 5      6,805,000        1004      \$147.5k

**Top 25%    34,025,000        6264      \$184.1k**
Thresh \$73.35K
25 - 10    20,415,000        1932      \$94.64

**Top 50%    68,050,000        8039      \$118.1k**
Thresh \$36.06K
50 - 25    34,025,000        1775      \$52.2

**All       136,100,000        9043      \$66.4k**
100-50     68,050,000        1004      \$14.7k

``````

Income inequality has been rising. The IRS notes that the total earnings of the 0.001% cohort increased by 51% from 2011 to 2012.

Wow, I’m probably more likely in the 0.1% of total humanity. That actually makes me kind of bummed out, but not so bummed out that I’m not excited or feeling guilty about getting my Galaxy S8+ this morning.

Since a person’s net worth and annual income both tend to increase over time, it would be also be instructive to consider how these distributions change with a person’s age. For example, the top percentile for people in their 20s is surely much lower than the top percentile for people in their 50s.

I said nothing about the number of wage earners, so I don’t see how how I was underestimating anything.