Top Earners Doubled Share of Nation’s Income, Study Finds
By ROBERT PEAR
NY Times: October 25, 2011
WASHINGTON — The top 1 percent of earners more than doubled their share of the nation’s income over the last three decades, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday, in a new report likely to figure prominently in the escalating political fight over how to revive the economy, create jobs and lower the federal debt.
The report, requested several years ago, was issued as lawmakers tussle over how to reduce unemployment, a joint committee of Congress weighs changes in the tax code and protesters around the country rail against disparities in income between rich and poor.
In its report, the budget office found that from 1979 to 2007, average inflation-adjusted after-tax income grew by 275 percent for the 1 percent of the population with the highest income. By contrast, the budget office said, for the poorest fifth of the population, average real after-tax household income rose 18 percent. And for the three-fifths of people in the middle of the income scale, the growth in such household income was just under 40 percent.
The findings, based on a rigorous analysis of data from the Internal Revenue Service and the Census Bureau, are generally consistent with studies by some private researchers and academic economists. But because they carry the imprimatur of the nonpartisan budget office, they are likely to have a major impact on the debate in Congress over the fairness of federal tax and spending policies.
The report found that higher-income households got a larger share of the pie, while other households got smaller shares. Specifically the report made these points:
¶ The share of after-tax household income for the top 1 percent of the population more than doubled, climbing to 17 percent in 2007 from nearly 8 percent in 1979.
¶ The most affluent fifth of the population received 53 percent of after-tax household income in 2007, up from 43 percent in 1979. In other words, the after-tax income of the most affluent fifth exceeded the income of the other four-fifths of the population.
¶ People in the lowest fifth of the population received about 5 percent of after-tax household income in 2007, down from 7 percent in 1979.
¶ People in the middle three-fifths of the population saw their shares of after-tax income decline by 2 to 3 percentage points from 1979 to 2007.