How Long Does a 1%er Stay a 1%er? It’s Not What You’d Guess

  • 94% of those who make it to the top 1% income level only remain for 1 year
  • Only 1% of 1%ers stay there for more than a decade
  • Of the top 400 earners (FAR fewer than the top 1%), 72% only remain for 1 year
  • Only 12 earners remained in the top 400 for more than a decade
  • Also: more than half of all Americans will be in the top 10% at some point during their working lives

Despite the dominant narrative, the “rich” are changing constantly. There are no entrenched classes. At various points in their lives, Americans “appear” at almost all income levels – even those that earn the most.

Via Cato Institute

Your odds of “making it to the top” might be better than you think, although it’s tough to stay on top once you get there.

According to research from Cornell University, over 50 percent of Americans find themselves among the top 10 percent of income-earners for at least one year during their working lives. Over 11 percent of Americans will be counted among the top 1 percent of income-earners (i.e., people making at minimum $332,000 per annum) for at least one year.

How is this possible? Simple: the rate of turnover in these groups is extremely high.

Just how high? Some 94 percent of Americans who reach “top 1 percent” income status will enjoy it for only a single year. Approximately 99 percent will lose their “top 1 percent” status within a decade.

Now consider the top 400 U.S. income-earners—a far more exclusive club than the top 1 percent. Between 1992 and 2013, 72 percent of the top 400 retained that title for no more than a year. Over 97 percent retained it for no more than a decade.

The Forbes 400 lists the wealthiest Americans by total estimated net worth, regardless of their income during any given year. Over 71 percent of Forbes 400 listees and their heirs lost their top 400 status between 1982 and 2014.


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