Women in the One Percent: Gender Dynamics in Top Income Positions
A growing body of research documents the importance of studying households in the top one percent of U.S. income distribution because they control enormous resources. However, little is known about whose income—men’s or women’s—is primarily responsible for pushing households into the one percent and whether women have individual pathways to earning one percent status based on their income. Using the 1995 to 2016 Surveys of Consumer Finances, we analyze gender income patterns in the one percent. Results show that women’s income is sufficient for one percent status in only 1 in 20 of all elite households. Although self-employment and higher education increase the likelihood that women will personally earn sufficient income for one percent status, marrying a man with good income prospects is a woman’s main route to the one percent. In contrast, men’s one percent status is most closely associated with their own characteristics (self-employment and higher education). Importantly, the gender gap in personally earning one percent income has not narrowed since the mid- to late-1990s, indicating another area in which gender progress has stalled. This research suggests that men retain most of the primary breadwinning positions in top income households and that a financial glass ceiling remains firmly intact at the one percent level.