U.S. Census income data
December 3, 2005 7:33 AM   Subscribe

How many people in the United States make over $25 million a year in pre-tax income? How many over some other threshold? Google is failing me, and census.gov is resisting my navigational efforts.
posted by Aaorn to Work & Money (10 answers total)
You won't find that information in the census. The IRS has some millionaire data but that seems mostly to cover the "above 1 million" crowd and not the double-plus super rich. For what you're looking for, the latest data the IRS has is from 1998 [xls file] which seems to put the number of people in the US whose net worth is over 20 million dollars at 29. Yeah,29 people if I'm reading that right. Then again, that's 29 people who reported all this wealth to the IRS so, um, ymmv.
posted by jessamyn at 7:46 AM on December 3, 2005

29,000. Sounds about right.
posted by Gyan at 7:50 AM on December 3, 2005

Obviously I skipped the small print. 29,000. Thanks Gyan.
posted by jessamyn at 7:56 AM on December 3, 2005

There's a pretty big diffrence between net worth and income.
posted by delmoi at 8:53 AM on December 3, 2005

The IRS data is Net Worth, not Income. For $25 million in income a year, you're getting down to a few CEOs, hedge fund managers, investment bankers, athletes, entertainers, lottery winners. There would be far more people with a net worth of $25 million.
posted by Frank Grimes at 8:53 AM on December 3, 2005

That's net worth, which is not the same as income.

The highest income bracket on the census is "over $200K". About 0.7% of the U.S. population makes that much a year - that's by household, not individual, and the vast majority of those are couples both working at $100K+ jobs.

About 25% of all households in the U.S. have an income of $30,000-$50,000.

The NYT has some stories on the hyper-rich. The Times notes that the cutoff for being in the top 400 highest-income taxpayers is $87 million in annual income. So how many people make over $25 million annually... say, between one and two thousand.
posted by jellicle at 8:56 AM on December 3, 2005

Wow, sorry for totally misreading your question. For a ballpark estimate, you might want to look at the IRSs Statistics of Income Bulletins. This article, which talks about adjusted gross incomes from 2002 seems to indicate that they got 169,000 "taxable returns" where people's incomes were over $1,000,000. That's the top category of income level that the IRS seems to pay attention to.
posted by jessamyn at 9:39 AM on December 3, 2005

Depending on why exactly you want this information, you might also want to consider people whose assets allow them to live as if they had an income of $25M. That is, if you're considering lifestyles or spending patterns rather than, say, rich people who could be soaked with special taxes.

All of the sources quoted so far have concerned taxable income reported to the IRS, but it's possible to have "income" that's not taxable. You could generated $25M a year just by borrowing it on margin against your massive stock portofolio. Then you'd want to include anyone with about $500M in assets (assuming 5% return) as having the equvalent of a $25M income. Clever portfolio management could mean they never pay back the loan and never have to realize a capital gain.
posted by zanni at 1:29 PM on December 3, 2005

There's an interesting article here which attempts to explain why people at that stratospheric level of wealth may not wish to appear on any lists.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:18 PM on December 3, 2005

The February 2001 article cited by mr_crash_davis may be of questionable value.

The main thesis seems to be that growing numbers of billionaires are renouncing their U.S. citizenship in order to avoid U.S. taxation (I leave it to the reader to identify such individuals, most of whom presumably would have some prominence, and to consider the significant disadvantages of not being a U.S. citizen).

The article's author points to a decline in the number of billionaires in the U.S. (as listed on the Forbes 400) over the period 1999 -2001 (307 to 298 to 266). Unfortunately for his thesis, the number of American billionaires in 2005, per that list, was 346.

To the larger point: while the Forbes 400 list is somewhat self-reporting (there was an amusing article in the NYT, 10/25/2005, about Donald Trump's attempts to stay on it, and to get his reported net worth as high as possible), none of the other answers involved a list with publicly identifiable individuals. So "The Privacy Factor" (the cited article's title) may have little to do with the accuracy of the data cited by others (and the IRS).
posted by WestCoaster at 7:12 PM on December 3, 2005

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