“How do you measure high-wage earners?”
The answer has changed since our research began; many estimates on what the top 1% of American workers earn are simply guesses, based on the income of high earners whose names have been lost in the income tax system—the so-called microfoundations. A 2011 report by the Economic Policy Institute estimated that the top 0.1 percent of earners earned, on average, roughly $1,000,000 more a year than their “average” working-age American counterpart. The authors, who are economists, suggest their method underestimates incomes of these mega-rich because of the huge amount of non-wage compensation that low- and middle-income Americans earn.
Our research relies on income data from four years of the Current Population Survey conducted by the Census Bureau. We collected these data for the entire 2013 calendar year, when there were 9.2 million new jobs added and when the Census Bureau counts the number of workers in each household. This data has been compared with the earnings of the top 0.1 percent to estimate which occupations the top 0.1 percent own and what their incomes are.
Our research provides a detailed picture of the incomes of the top 0.1 percent of income earners. According to the American Jobs Creation Act of 2007, the top 0.1 percent of the U.S. income distribution accounts for 13.2 percent of earnings: the bottom 90 percent of workers make about 80 percent of what the top 0.1 percent earns.
The top 0.1 percent account for 23.7 million of the 2.54 million American employees in the top 1 percent in 2015, including 13.6 million in the top 1 percent group. The top 1.1 percent of all earnings is about 7.3 times the total of all people in the top 0.1 percent. In other words, the top 1 percent of workers take almost 40.2 percent of earnings—that’s about 1.9 billion dollars (approximately $1.8 trillion in 2015 dollars) of income. The top 0.1 percent, as a group, take 22.7 million of the 1.9 million American employees in the group, out of 4.1 million people in the group.
If we divide the amount of income by the number of people, we would get the same figure of 23.7 million or 1.9 billion. But this figure only includes people in this group of the top 0.1 percent. If we