Thursday, November 17, 2011

The data behind "We are the 99%"

As a rallying cry and internet meme, the slogan “We are the 99%” has spotlighted the Occupy movement’s protest against the political influence of the wealthy, and promoted empathy with stories of economic hardship. Underneath these figurative uses, the phrase is a reference to real data on increasing economic inequality in the United States.

Lane Library’s government documents collection is a good place to find that data. As a federal depository library, we receive print copies of government publications and facilitate access to materials published online.

Where to find income data:
These agencies have different data collection methods, each with its own limitations (hence the discrepancies).
In 2008, 20% of the total Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) went to the top 1%. (SOI Bulletin—Individual Income Tax Rates and Tax Shares, Table 5)
In 2008, 21.5% of aggregate income went to the top 5% of households. (Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, Table H-2: All Races)
After-tax household income for the 1% with the highest income grew by 275%, compared to 62% growth overall. This growth disparity has increased income inequality.

Where to find wealth data:
In 2004, the top 1% held 33.4% of the nation’s wealth.

Tools for finding this information: The official search engine for government publications.
FedStats. A portal to statistics from federal agencies.
American FactFinder. A database of census information.
OpenCRS.A searchable collection of Congressional Research Service reports that have been released to the public.

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