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Joining the top 1% just got more difficult, IRS data reveals

Ethan Wolff-Mann
Senior Writer

Becoming a member of the 1% has gotten even harder, according to fresh data from the IRS.

The data, which includes the year 2017 for the first time, shows that the 1% cutoff is an income of $515,371.

In 2015 and 2016, the 1% cutoff hadn’t budged from the $480,000 mark, but 2017 saw the threshold kick up by 7% as the wealthiest Americans became wealthier. But despite the higher barrier to entry, another 24,064 Americans joined the 1%, bringing the total number to 1,432,952.

The year 2017 was the first of Donald Trump’s presidency, marked by tax cuts and pro-business policies that largely have benefited the wealthy. (About two-thirds of Americans got a tax cut in 2018, but most of the gains went to the highest earners.)

The most exclusive club, people whose income puts them in the top 0.001%, has just 1,433 people who pull in $63,430,119 per year or more.

The thresholds for joining each income group increased, but the richer percentiles increased faster, meaning the richer demographics got richer, faster. The income threshold to join the top 10% increased by 4%; the threshold to join the top 1% increased by 7%; the top 0.1% by 12%; and the top 0.001% by a very steep 20%.

The amount of money the 1% pulls in annually has changed considerably in the past two decades. Lower percentiles numbers haven't changed nearly as much. (Yahoo Finance)

Looking at these numbers over time gives a better picture of the changes. Though the 2008 financial crisis saw the 1% club shrink considerably, the top 1% threshold has pulled away from even the top 10% and 25% richest Americans — and even further from other less wealthy groups.

Since 2001, the top 0.001% group has doubled their income, the top 1% has increased their income by 68%; the top 10% increased their income by 51%; the top 25% by 42%; and the top 50% of U.S. earners boosted their income by just 33%.

Put in actual dollars, the top one-percent’s income has grown by $208,736 and the top 50-percent’s has grown by $10,322.

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Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumer issues, personal finance, retail, airlines, and more. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.

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