Watch as the Rich Take a Larger Share of Income While the Rest Shrink

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Income inequality is a growing concern across the world. In the United States, the distribution of income controlled by the wealthiest Americans has been growing for some time now. View our Voronoi diagram below to see a time-lapse of the distribution of income in the U.S.


The diagram is split into six different income groups: the top 90 percent, the top 10 percent, the top 5 percent, the 1 percent, the top 0.1 percent and the top 0.01 percent. Each group is represented by a different color. After pressing play, the chart will begin changing shape as the share of income each group controls changes over time. The data were collected from the World and Wealth Income Database for the years 1979 to 2014 (Please note that the data collected does not include capital gains as income, nor is the data a measure of wealth).

Percentage Change of Each Group between 1979 and 2014:

  • Bottom 90 percent

    • 67.65% to 52.66%

    • Total Share Change: -14.99%

    • Growth of Income Group Share: -22.16%

  • Top 10 percent

    • 11.52% to 12.57%

    • Total Share Change: 1.05%

    • Growth of Income Group Share: 9.11%

  • Top 5 percent

    • 12.8% to 16.79%

    • Total Share Change: 3.99%

    • Growth of Income Group Share: 31.17%

  • Top 1 percent

    • 5.87% to 10.36%

    • Total Share Change: 4.49%

    • Growth of Income Group Share: 76.49%

  • Top 0.1 percent

    • 1.54% to 4.43%

    • Total Share Change: 2.89%

    • Growth of Income Group Share: 187.66%

  • Top 0.01 percent

    • 0.62% to 3.19%

    • Total Share Change: 2.57%

    • Growth of Income Group Share: 414.52%

Both the data and the chart show the large growth of total income held by the richest Americans. As the diagram goes through each year, the share of income held by the bottom 90 percent continually shrinks, with the exception of 1981, 1989, 1991, 1993, 2001, 2009 and 2013. However, the overall trend is steeply downward for the bottom 90%. In some years, the share of income held by the bottom 90 percent goes up, but only by a very small amount. In the other years, the share of income held by the bottom 90 percent goes down, but by much larger amount. Between 1979 and 2014, this income group went from controlling 67.65 percent of all income to 52.66 percent. The slice representing the bottom 90 percent shrinks by 22.16% over the course of the time-lapse.

Looking at the Percentage Change of Each Group chart, one can see an obvious trend. The richer the income group, the faster the income share growth. This trend follows exactly through every income group going upward. The top 0.01 percent, the richest group measured, saw its income share grow more than four times its original size. The top 1 percent saw its percentage share of income almost double, from 5.87% in 1979 to 10.36% in 2014. The top 10 percent’s overall share of income did not increase by that much. While it did grow by some, the richer income groups grew at a much faster rate. This is represented by the rapidly growing slices in the time-lapse. Although the top 0.01 percent slice starts small, it grows incredibly quickly, while the bottom 90 percent group shrinks. The trend here is obvious: incomes in the United States are leaving the bottom 90 percent and moving towards the richest Americans.

The time-lapse shows an interesting change over the period 1979 to 2014. The bottom 90 percent of income earners, representing the vast majority of the US population, see their share of total income fall quickly over the period. At the same time, the wealthiest gain more and more control as time passes. The wealthier the income group, the faster the share of total income grows.

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