What does it take to be in the top? The answer is different for top income & top net worth positions.
Ascribed and Achieved Traits in Top Incomes, Top Net Worth, and Both
It is well-known that the one percent control disproportionate quantities of income and net worth, but knowledge about who occupies these top economic positions is limited. We explore whether the one percent is permeable by studying the relative weight of ascribed and achieved traits in generating membership in top income and net worth positions.
We make two important contributions. First, rather than focus on either income or net worth as previous research has done, we simultaneously study both income and net worth. To do this, we disaggregate the top one percent into three groups: top income earners, top net worth owners, and those at the top of both distributions; this takes seriously the nuanced relationship between the two resources and provides new insight into both resource concentration and the permeability of the top.
Second, we develop a set of theoretically grounded propositions regarding the permeability of the one percent. We propose that (a) the degree to which there is overlap between the top one percent by income and net worth (i.e., the size of the third, joint income-net worth group) and (b) the particular mix of traits evidenced in members of the top three groups indicate whether the top is permeable. Analyses of the Survey of Consumer Finances both suggest that the one percent is permeable and offer insights into who occupies these top positions.