sex and class

Max Sawicky sawicky at
Tue Dec 1 11:13:43 PST 1998

> >In 1996, the top of the fourth family income quintile
> >was $77K.
> Do we know where the top of the fourth family income quintile was for
> two-adult households aged 40-49?

No, but . . .

>From Table 1.16 in the forthcoming State of Working America:

Average family income, married couples of 'prime working age', (head is 25-54), 1996 (in 1997 $):

Fourth quintile: $73,057 Fifth quintile: $138,280

Obviously 20 percent of couples of prime age are much less than 20 percent of the population in total, and many in the top quintile shown here could not afford the stuff in the article DH posted.

Another point is that the annual number is not reflective of the family's lifetime or average income. People move into and out of the top quintile. The average income for a panel or cross-section overstates the wealth, loosely speaking, of an average member of the group. Also, a $130K income based on returns to wealth is not nearly the same thing as such an income derived by a couple who both work full-time or more.

This all speaks to one of my hobby-horses: there are many fewer "rich" than people think, from the standpoint of common notions of "rich." The average person in the top quintile is certainly well-off or rich in relative terms, but if such a person has children, the scope for second homes and European vacations is limited, and full-time servants are pretty much out of the question. When I think rich, I think mansion, cook, chauffeur, gardener. But $130K means very nice house, lots of dining out, paying someone to do your landscaping periodically, etc. Well-off but not "rich."

The people who really live in a different world -- say, the ones who fall into the top bracket of the income tax, are less than two percent of tax filers (meaning less than about two million returns, many of which are couples w/children or other dependents).


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