If we are the 99%, who are they—the top 1 percent?
Their share of total income in 2008 was 17.67 percent, up from 8.01 percent in 1975. If we include capital gains, their share rises to 20.95 percent, up from 8.87 percent in 1975.*
If we look at their average incomes, we can see they rose from $318,482 in 1975 to $905,569 in 2008 (expressed in terms of “real” 2008 dollars, that is, accounting for inflation). And, if we include capital gains, their incomes jumped from $363,298 in 1975 to $1,137,684 in 2008 (again, in real 2008 dollars).
Just for comparison, consider what happened to the incomes of the bottom 90 percent during that period. Average incomes barely increased, rising from $29,782 in 1975 to $30,981 in 2008 (in real 2008 dollars). (Including capital gains for the bottom 90 percent introduces only minor changes: average incomes rose from 30,285 in 1975 to $31,245 in 2008, again in real 2008 dollars.)
We can see that the period from 1975 to 2008 in the United States was very good for the top 1 percent. And Wall Street played an important role in their spectacular success, while making sure that everyone else stayed pretty much the same.
* All the numbers and charts displayed here are from the World Top Incomes Database. You can click on the smaller charts to make them easier to read.