The One Percent: Top Incomes and Wealth in Sociological Research
Unique asset and debt behaviors characterize those at the top of the income and net worth distributions
The one percent, those at the top of the income and wealth distributions, are fundamental to understanding social and economic inequality and mobility, but sociologists rarely focus research attention on this group. This article presents updated evidence showing that both income and wealth are very highly concentrated in the United States but that the concentration of wealth, particularly financial wealth, is extremely high. We focus on the one percent of wealth owners and identify patterns in asset ownership, liabilities, and demographic traits that are relevant to sociological research. Findings show, for example, that those in the one percent have unique asset and debt portfolios that, to some extent, insulated them from the ill effects of the recent recession; however, patterns reported also highlight inheritance and suggest that mobility into the one percent is possible. The article concludes with suggestions for future research.