In 2013, the top 1% of Americans made 25.3 times as much as the bottom 99% percent of Americans in terms of annual income. Two years later, in 2015, the gap continued to widen, with the 1% now making 26.3 times as much as the bottom 99%, according to a study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, a historically liberal think tank based in Washington D.C.
To be in the top 1%, the household income for a family needs to be above about $422,000 according to the Economic Policy Institute study. In some states, however, the threshold is even higher where the cost of living and in turn, income, are also higher. With the 1% making an income above the $422,000 mark, they made more than 22% of the rest of Americans in 2015 alone. The 22% mark is the highest percentage in the United States since the Great Depression when the top 1% made just about 24% of all income.
One of the largest reasons for the change in these percentages in recent years is the growing number of billionaires and their growing wealth. Currently, the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, has surpassed a net worth of more than $150 billion. Likewise, billionaires such as Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates continue to accumulate wealth as well. According to the study, the income of the top 1% grew faster than the income of the bottom 99% in 43 of the 50 states. Similarly, in nine US states, the top 1% of the country has accounted for more than half of the income growth from 2009 to 2015.
Another argument presented for the increase in wealth for the top 1% is the decline in unions. According to a study released by the EPI, only 11% of American workers are covered by unions, an all-time low for the US workforce. In the same study, EPI found that unionized workers make 13.2% more on average than non-unionized workers.
While the rich get richer, the poor are continuing to struggle to get by. More than 20% of Americans, according to the study, say they have more credit-card debt than emergency savings. In addition, less than 40% of Americans believe they have enough money in their savings to cover an emergency room visit or car repair that exceeds $1,000.
The growing inequality between the rich and poor is a point of concern for many around the United States. The EPI, a liberal nonprofit associated with the labor movement, recognizes the problem and recommends a few ways to prevent a further increase in the profits of the 1%. They recommend returning bargaining power to the US workers and boosting investment into public programs such as child care, education, and healthcare.
These ideas have gained popularity through the 2018 midterm elections with many democrats spurring up support for these initiatives. The platforms pushing Medicare and more control on Wall Street, in many cases, are also facing sharp criticism that state that these policies will only continue to burden the country in debt.