Income Breakdown in US

Published 34 Comments on Income Breakdown in US

Quick Question: What percentage of Americans do you think has your income level?

I believe that most Americans do not understand the breakdown of income in this country. So here is a nice chart to help you understand how poor most Americans are. (Shoutout to Danny for the basic info and the IRS for making this information public.)

Source: IRS Income Tax Statistics
Data – 130,076,445 Total income tax returns from 2002

Gross IncomeAmericans% of Population
$1 – $50,000 92,594,960 71.185%
$50,000 – $75,000 17,396,916 13.374%
$75,000 – $100,000 9,247,839 7.110%
$100,000 – $200,000 8,422,603 6.475%
$200,000 – $500,000 1,908,466 1.467%
$500,000 – $1,000,000 336,684 0.259%
$1,000,000 – $1,500,000 78,121 0.060%
$1,500,000 – $2,000,000 31,316 0.024%
$2,000,000 – $5,000,000 44,205 0.034%
$5,000,000 – $10,000,000 10,026 0.008%
$10,000,000 + 5,309 0.004%


  1. What p-e-r-c-e-n-t-a-g-e of U.S. taxes are paid by the 5,309 Americans (0.004%) in the $100,000,000 tax bracket ?????

  2. The 2002 chart (above) is “130,076,445 Total income tax returns from 2002”, while Evalynn’s website has “Selected Characteristics of Households, by Total Money Income in 2007” for 116,783 Households. So we have an ‘Apples and Oranges’ situation where you can not appropriately make comparisons.

    I like the clear, concise format of the 2002 chart, however the column headings “Americans” and “% of Population” should be “Taxpayers” and “% of Taxpayers”.

    The 2006 website Evalynn gave is more current, but only covers 116,783 Households, has too, too much other information. Unfortunately the income groupings are not as clear as the original 2002 chart. The first 3 income groups ($1 – $100, 000) have been divided into 40 groups each covering a $2500 range, while the top 8 income groups ($100,000 – $10,000,000+) are lumped together into 1 group covering at least a $10,000,000 range, or is it $100,000,000 plus!

    An update of the 2002 chart, using the same groupings – or better yet, splitting the $200,000 – $500,000 into $200,000 – $250,000 and $250,000 – $500,000, would be best for comparisons and income trend evaluations, especially since the new administration has drawn a line at the $250,000 income level.

    Neither table has total population, total of all income, and % of total income (per group). An additional column for ‘% of all income’ and a final row for totals would complete the 2002 style table. It would be desirable for such a Table to be available for each year, inflation adjusted income groups would be needed if these tables would cover from as far back as possible, at least form the Gilded Age of the late 1800s, certainly from 1929 through the present.

    When making comparisons don’t forget that dollar figures, even if both charts showed the same breakdowns, do not take into account the reduced value of 2007 vs 2002 dollars’ buying power due to the higher cost of living (inflation). Also the same dollar values, even if inflation adjusted, would reflect reduced ‘wealth’ due to the higher standard of living.

    1. Dude, this post is from 2004. If you have up to date info, publish it. The point of this post is that the VAST majority of people have very little money and the super, uber rich have too much. If the super rich (billionaires had 1 less billion each, the world would be a better place.

      1. Would you have the same income data, but in $5,000 increments from $1 to $50,000? I can’t seem to find it anywhere.

  3. Yes Dude,

    I do agree with that point, and it is still valid.

    What I was trying to say is that we still need that information in a more complete way (the additions I suggested) and on an ongoing (yearly) basis, rather than one time (2002).

    Yearly versions of the table would better illustrate the poiint.

    My hope was that whoever put together the 2002 table would revive and update it annually. Was that you?

    Perhaps an economics major could put together the table for all the years past as part of a thesis.

    Better yet, the Obama administration should have the IRS do it. Currently it seems that the IRS focuses on splitting up $100,000 and less into 40 meaningless subgroups, while obscuring income stratification data for $100,000 and up in 1 meaningless group.

  4. The thing you have to remember is that this is REPORTED income on IRS forms. In college financial aid, I look at income tax returns all the time for business people who live in very expensive houses, have lots of savings, and claim they only earned 30 or 40,000 a year at their businesses. There is a ton of income hidden in business tax returns that is not reflected in these charts. If you could ever get a valid report of net worth combined with income, that would mean something. Then there is the issue of pensions. Workers with pensions actually “earn” much more than those of us with equivalent W2s but saving for retirement on our own.

  5. The super rich are that way because they know how to make money work for them. Once you learn how it is hard not to become rich. Those who make that much money have taken risks that most won’t dare to take, and therefore they have rewards that most don’t have. Even those who make more that 100k plus have learned that secret, or have two incomes that equal that. What makes me mad is that people think that because I make more money I should have to pay a higher percentage in my taxes. How is that fair. The reason that business people can claim less is because that is their income, the business makes the money not them. Learn how to use your LLC and your C corp/S corps so that you can make that kind of money too. Take some risk and live the “American dream”. Find an idea, make it yours, and develop it into a multi-million dollar business. Forget about how that billionaire should give up one billion to all us poor folks that need handouts from Obama and his socialistic cabinet. Get off your butts and stop crying about how unfair life is and take a slice of the good life for yourself. Make something happen.

    1. @AJ: So Paris Hilton was born knowing how to make money work for her?? Because last I checked she was rich from the day she was born. The strongest indicator of what income class a person will have when they are older is their parents income range. Changing classes in any country (including the US) is a difficult task and only happens a small percentage of the time.

      Given your philosophy, we would be living in a perpetual Great Depression where only a few have money and the rest just live in filth.

      No one is crying about how life is unfair except you. The majority of people in this country want rich people to pay more taxes. Stop crying about how life is unfair and suck it up. Otherwise we will form a mob and ransack your McMansions.

      Actually, you make me laugh. Go watch Fox News, Scrooge McDuck.

      1. I went from growing up in the lowest percentage to the top 5-7%. College education (that I’m now paying for) and marrying and having double income. People can change their income brackets if they CHOOSE to do so.

        1. Lemme guess. You are a white male. You don’t have a crippling illness (or family members who do). You have moderate talent and live somewhere where opportunity is possible. Don’t be obnoxious. Luck and circumstance plays a major role. Changing income brackets generationally is rare (not impossible).

    2. Great comments AJ. I am currently in the 1.467% group but when I was 42 I only paid myself $5K. I have had to make a lot of sacrifices and worked a lot of hours and still do in my business. I may add that I lost a bunch of money three years ago in the stock market and am trying like hell to save for retirement because I don’t have the luxury of having a pension from some cushy government job.

    3. Out of the 5,309 it would be interesting to see how many inherited their money from mommy and daddy or through some type of trust.

  6. @ Glen. First of all, I don’t make a lot of money. I am poor. I just graduated from college and hope to someday have a mcmansion, but I’m not gonna complain about not having money, I will surround myself with people who do, copy what they do, and make millions.

    Second, I know at least 45 people in my life who have completely changed their “class” from that of their parents, my father being one of them. He comes from a family of poor farmers, my dad decided he didn’t want that and he got into sales, worked his butt off, and has made over a million per year for the past 13 years. I have friends who have gone out from poor or middle class families, started their own businesses, and are now millionaires themselves. That is the beauty of this country, you can do that. To quote a favorite movie of mine”You can change your stars”

    Granted, Paris Hilton was born into money, and doesn’t have to worry about it like the rest of us do. Also, those who are born into money like that may have a better opportunity to facilitate making more money because they have the means to do so. BUT, Paris has created an image for herself and her sister and they have created products for their niche. If it is them or a team of financial advisers I can’t say, but she brings in her own pretty penny I’m sure.

    As for the Scrooge comment. I’d like you to know that even as a poor man I put 10% of my gross income to charity, and will continue to do so. That is on top of my taxes. Is that generous enough for you, or do you want a personal check?

    What do you do? The biggest curse in America is that people are too lazy and all they want is a handout because somehow those who make more than them owe it to them. As if those who make more than them don’t provide a job, and a wage for them already. At some point most business owners took large risks, if it didn’t turn out they probably got screwed, but if that risk panned out they run successful businesses, providing jobs for you and me. You’ve heard the old saying, ” If you give a man a fish he’ll eat for a day, if you teach a man to fish he’ll feast for a lifetime.” That’s my mentality, not that the rich aren’t lazy, because there are some who are. Not that the poor are lazy, because there are many who aren’t. But blaming others and expecting handouts is not the answer. If you don’t like your situation, change it.

    1. “Is that generous enough for you, or do you want a personal check?”

      There is a Tip Jar on the right. 😉

      Optimism is good for the soul, so go for it. I wish you the best of luck.

  7. @AJ . . the problem with this country is people like you that you assume that everyone wants a handout. Whereas in reality people just want to be treated fairly. There is no reason in this wealthy country that a child should die from an infected tooth because his parent had no health care coverage or money and medicaid doesn’t cover dental. Google it. This country needs well educated (high school) and healthy people to do the work so entrepreneurs have people to work for them. As my brother used to say, someone has to work at McDonald’s so we can eat there. Apply that saying to all the other low/lower wage jobs/non-college jobs.
    When you look at all the surveys whether they be happiness, adult life span, infant mortality etc., the U.S. is never first and frequently pretty far down on the list.
    This selfishness culture is not sustainable.

  8. According to a chart produced by the IRS, in 2008 the top 1% of taxpayers earned 20% of the total adjusted gross income, but paid 38% of the total revenue collected through income taxes. Contrast this with the bottom 50% of taxpayers, who earned about 13% of total adjusted gross income, but paid less than 3% of total taxes. So the top 1% are paying about 2x their share based on equal division according to income, while the bottom 50% are paying less than 1/4 of their share. The top 1% pay an average tax rate of 23.27% while the bottom 50% pay an average tax rate of 2.59%. I think those at the bottom tend to only see how much the wealthy have left over, and ignore how much they’ve already given up. Don’t begrudge the wealthy their surplus, use it as inspiration for achieving your own financial success.

  9. JP’s link does not give income breakdowns, instead it uses percentages of “Taxpayers with positive AGI (Adjusted Gross Income)” which not only makes it an ‘apples vs oranges’ comparison, but it is further skewed by the fact that not all income earners make enough to have a positive AGI.

    A more telling comparison would be total taxes (state, sales, gas, excise, etc) vs total income, rather than Federal income taxes vs positive AGI.

    Even total taxes vs total income does not take into consideration cost of living vs income, or Wealth Redistribution caused by ‘winners’ influencing legislators to change or tweak laws to benefit ‘winners’ at ‘losers’ expense.

  10. Can you help me find a chart or SOMETHING that shows the breakdown of the SOURCE of income of Americans? I heard that 1/3 of all U.S. income comes from government programs, but I can’t find any sort of document to prove it. Can anyone out there help me?

  11. When a government that is meant to be “Of ,by and for the PEOPLE” allows the few to thrive without any moral foundations on how they can best help those of lesser means to also thrive then that government stands in direct opposition to the oath of office they took upon entering that office. This behavior is thus a treasonable act against their fellow countrymen they are sworn to serve. They double this treason by scewing the ods in favor of the major corporations by allowing them to not pay taxes through the loophole in the tax codes and not punnishing them for shipping jobs overseas to further inprove their net income.

  12. No amount of simplifying the tax code or raising taxes across the board will be enough as long as there are no checks and balances against any level of the government spending beyond its means. There must be some control in place to limit robbing from the future or diluting the value of currency.

  13. I am happy and confused by some of the comments. I am glad to see that several people understand that the current class warfare comments are un-American and totally fraudulent. If you took all the funds from all of the rich… you would barely cover this year’s budget deficient… and then whose wealth would you steal next year. It’s time to recognize that we have a different problem. We are faced with the task of addressing the misconception that the world owes you something. For maybe three generations, there has been the creeping fungal idea that success is bad, and that those that do succeed are evil. This is a strange turn about because, the United States of America was founded on individual freedoms and the concept that there are rewards for hard work, business savvy, and the risks associated with entrepreneurial effort. There are so many other ways to solve our current problems but, self-destructive attacks on the very people that have succeeded is wrong. It is better to analyze why the quality of life has started to decline, why businesses have left our country, and why we feel is necessary and proper to steal from the successful to coddle those to open take from others.

  14. Isnt it obvious that over half of Americans don’t even pay taxes, and the top 10 percent pay the most, capitalism isn’t perfect, but it is the reason our country has the giant economy it has, without the mass over population like China and India.

  15. Morrisdl is exactly right, where else do you see so many people go from absolute poverty to great wealth, not through corruption or nepatism, (though that still does occur) America is not perfect by any means, but our founding fathers had the right idea by making the Constitution amendable and vague, because they knew history cannot be changed, but the future is for the people to decide.

  16. Obviously everyone who earns money as an employee and/or spends money in the US likely pays taxes (State(s) and/or Federal) of some sort either directly or indirectly (Sales tax, Excise tax, Fuel tax, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, Income tax, etc).

    The top ten percent might pay the most dollars of taxes, but as a group they certainly don’t pay the highest percent of their gross income in taxes.

  17. On average, when factoring in all taxes, the bottom 20% pay out approximately twice as much as the top 1% in proportion to their income, the link will provide the details (if you can make it through).

    I don’t think the argument is that the world “owes” anyone something for nothing or that the poor (majority of US residents) are looking for lavish hand outs at the cost of the wealthy. Those talking points, much like the gun regulation talking points, are backed by special interest groups to make the listeners only see an extreme point of view. “Taxing the wealthy more is socialistic wealth distribution, they just want more hand outs and food stamps!” ….”There is no such thing as Gun Regulation, it’s just another way for the socialists to take your guns away!”. It’s sad to see these messages stray so far from the core issues and it’s worse to see so many buy into it. The argument is no one is self made, some where along the line you have received help from the government, directly or indirectly and it is your obligation to make it easier, not harder on other people to do the same.

    I was raised in a very blue collar middle class family, my father owned a road construction company, where I’d work in summer and my mother stayed home. I was told over and over again growing up that our purpose first and foremost on this Earth was to help others, poor, rich, black, white, no difference. When someone is in need, there is an obligation not only as a man but as an American to step up and help. The true misconception that we have today is that, poor people are bad and rich people are good. Poor people are lazy and rich people are not, poor people get hand outs and rich people do not. That life is fair from first breath to last and that is just not true. It’s also why when you have the means to help you help and if that means paying more federal taxes so some child gets a meal every day this week you do it. My wife and I make a reasonable income for a family of 5, I volunteer as a basketball coach and we give as much to charity as possible. I personally would be more than happy to pay a much higher percentage of my income in taxes, if it meant more schools, more meals to the poor, stable mental health facilities. So I guess what I’m saying is shame on those who choose to use their wealth to manipulate our legislators and tax polices and shame on those of you who have received aid, via student aid, grants, public transportation, etc…. and choose to remain ignorant, regurgitating the talking points that chastise the people who are simply products of our policies.

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