Why Cracking Into the 1% Is Easier Than Staying There

Why Cracking Into the 1% Is Easier Than Staying There

Today, you're part of the 99%.

But tomorrow? Maybe you'll finally break into the 1%.

That’s right—a new study suggests that one in nine Americans will make it to the top tier of earners at some point in their lifetime.


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But here's the catch: Few of those people will actually remain there for any substantial period of time.

For the study, researchers at Cornell University and Washington University in St. Louis looked at income data on people ages 25 to 60, collected since 1968. Results showed that 11% of Americans will spend at least one year in the top 1% of earners.

What’s more, a whopping 70% of Americans will make it into the top 20% of earners for at least a year, and 53% will end up in the top 10%.

At the same time, just 20% of people will remain in the top 20% for a decade or longer. And only 0.6% of earners will last at least a decade in the top 1%.

So what makes the upper ranks of earners such a slippery spot? As Mark Rank, one of the study authors, told MainStreet, potential reasons might include job loss or cut wages, as well as divorce and having kids, which can take a serious toll on anyone’s finances.

Of course, no one wants to be the person who earns a place at the top, only to lose it within a year. But the researchers say this fluidity actually works to prevent income inequality, which has been steadily increasing over the last few decades.

Curious just how much money you’d need to bust into the top 1%—even temporarily? Find out what top earners make in your specific locale.


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