Economic Snapshot | Inequality and Poverty

The rise of the top 1 percent—not the same everywhere

While the share of income claimed by the top 1 percent has risen in nearly all advanced countries in recent decades, the United States has seen the largest rise in this measure of income inequality. The figure below shows the growth in the share of income held by the top 1 percent in a sample of developed countries over the past three decades.* With a 10.3 percentage-point increase in its share of income, the United States’ top 1 percent far outpaces European and Asian counterparts, which have seen roughly a third of that growth.

The rise in the top 1 percent’s share has been larger (though still not as large as the U.S.) in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. These nations, not coincidentally, have pursued economic policies similar to those practiced by the U.S. in recent decades, especially in regards to cutting marginal tax rates on high incomes and income derived from capital ownership.

*For data reasons, we could not get the exact same span of years for each country. We used 1979 and 2007 as the end-points when available. When they were not available, we chose the available end-points closest to 1979 and 2007.