# The few, the proud, the really, really wealthyMarch 9, 2010 10:05 AM   Subscribe

How many people in the United States make more than \$10,000,000 per year?

I was looking at some tax information, and I noticed that the top level yearly income percentile that they look at is \$10 million plus. I'm just curious as to how many individual people this actually is.
posted by quin to Work & Money (15 answers total)

The US population is approximately 300,000,000 people. If the information you looked at said the 99th percentile of income of all citizens is >\$10,000,000, then that implies that 3,000,000 people earn >\$10,000,000 per year.

That seems a lot.
posted by dfriedman at 10:10 AM on March 9, 2010

The Wiki for Household Income in The United States indicates that 1.5% of households make over \$250k. But, that's their top bracket.
posted by hwyengr at 10:15 AM on March 9, 2010

Best answer: For the 2007 tax year, 18,349 returns were filed reporting adjusted gross income over \$10M.

You can find that as well as much more detail here:
IRS SOI Tax Stats

(Specifically in the first linked Excel sheet 07in11si.xls)
posted by Perplexity at 10:18 AM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

(Based on these data the 99th percentile would be more like \$500k; 95.2 million of the 96.2 million total returns reported AGI under \$500k.)
posted by Perplexity at 10:19 AM on March 9, 2010

I think that would only work out if the income distribution was evenly distributed, dfriedman. 99th percentile of income does not equate to 1% of the population have that income. I think...

The number of people who have the 50th percentile income would be way higher than the number of people who have the 99th or 1st percentile income. Yes? Little help here. Stats always makes me doubt myself.
posted by Babblesort at 10:19 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's nowhere near 3,000,000 people. \$10,000,000 a year in income (rather than net worth) is top 0.01% not top 1%. So it's more like 30,000 people.
posted by Justinian at 10:20 AM on March 9, 2010

I think that would only work out if the income distribution was evenly distributed, dfriedman.

Yes, I think you're correct there.

posted by dfriedman at 10:25 AM on March 9, 2010

It seems like people are confusing what "percentile" means in this context. The 99th percentile of income is the value such that 1% of people (or households or whatever) have income above that value and 99% of people have income below that value. The 50th percentile is the value such that half have income above and half have income below. And so on. So 5% of people have income above the 95th percentile; 5% of people have income between the 50th and 55th percentile, and so on.
posted by Perplexity at 10:34 AM on March 9, 2010

While it looks like we know the exact number thanks to perplexity, for back of the envelope stats 300 million is a terrible number to use for a base population. Babies cannot earn money, so we should only count people who are reasonably old enough to report income.
posted by politikitty at 10:41 AM on March 9, 2010

The problem is that over 10M per year is rarely in the form of liquid assets, and a lot of rich people, almost all of them, hire extremely good accountants to hide their cash, legally and illegally (offshore, different companies, mattress stuffed with hundos, etc). A lot of people probably make 10M just in interest. Plus there's bonuses, percentages of ownership, etc. to consider.

Also, "in the United States" can mean so many different things. Living here? Working here? Doing business here? I know a rich dude who keeps dual residency in Canada just so he can pay fewer taxes.

So, just guessing, I would take the 18K number Perpexity found, and tack on 33% more, and round up to 25K.
posted by Damn That Television at 10:52 AM on March 9, 2010

From the Income tax perspective, be aware that just because a family or person earned \$10m one year, doesn't mean they made it the year before or the following year. Much (most?) income at that level is from capital gains from sales of property or large stock sales.

Many, many people consider gains in the value of stocks to be income, but it really isn't until it is sold. If you do include gains in stock prices, you also have to factor in the huge losses that come in other years. Some times the market is up, but sometimes it is down.

Get your hands on a copy of Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell. The "Income 'Distribution'" section is fascinating and addresses these issues and more.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 12:27 PM on March 9, 2010

The problem is that over 10M per year is rarely in the form of liquid assets
Much (most?) income at that level is from capital gains from sales of property or large stock sales.

Seconding these points. There's only a teeny, tiny number of people drawing, say, \$1 million in salary, which is what most people think of when the question is "How much did you make last year." A point to consider -- the average salary in Major League Baseball is \$3.5 million per year. That's a pool of about 750 players. But you probably wouldn't consider these guys representative of any norms for the pool of "rich people." There are, for example, the team owners to think about...

People earning high figures like this are usually doing so through stock activities or sales of assets, like stock and real state and so forth, so the risk is spread out over a (usually) significant amount of time. Saying they "made" \$10 million last year is a big misnomer.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:13 PM on March 9, 2010

Just a note guys: Stocks are liquid assets. They are basically equivalent to cash.
posted by Justinian at 4:56 PM on March 9, 2010

Justinian: "Just a note guys: Stocks are liquid assets. They are basically equivalent to cash."

That's not particularly true. Some stocks are very liquid. Large companies will have many million shares trade every day. These ones are like cash, at least as far as liquidity goes.

But many stocks are illiquid. They might trade a few hundred shares a day, or even not trade every day. These aren't at all like cash.
posted by Perplexity at 8:33 PM on March 9, 2010

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