Last updated March 09, 2015

Income Growth Favors the Top 1 Percent

Dec. 20, 2011

Over the past three decades, income gains have significantly benefited those who earn the most. After-tax income for those in the top 1 percent is almost four times what it was in 1979, while income for those in the middle three-fifths has grown by less than 40 percent. Those at the bottom of the income scale have seen even smaller gains.

As a result, the share of total disposable income held by the top 1 percent doubled from 7.7 percent of the pie to 17.1 percent over those three decades.

It is important to note that the households in a particular income range in 2007 were not necessarily the same households that were in that range in 1979. The data does not show longitudinal change for specific households, but rather gives a snapshot of income by percentile for each year.

Click on any year in the line graph below to see more details about the income distribution for that year.

Source: Congressional Budget Office estimates from Internal Revenue Service and Census Bureau data