Today the Occupy Wall Street protestors were escorted off the premises. Love em or loathe em, they have certainly brought attention to income inequality issues. In an earlier post, I noted that social concerns about having significant amounts of income concentrated in the hands of the top 1% hinge on whether the same people are in the top 1% year in and year out.
Carl Blalik, aka WSJ's "Numbers Guy" does his best to pin down the facts. Blalik reports that of workers who were in the top 20% of earnings in 1996, 61% were in the top 20% in 2005. Of those in the bottom 20% in 1996, 55% were still there in 2005. Turning to the top 1% in 1996, 40.3% were still in the top 1% nine years later. This suggests some fluidity in the far right tail of the income distribution. However, those who leave the top 1% do not have much of a risk of falling very far down the income scale -- overall 86% remain in the top quintile.