In the economic recovery since the 2008 crash, the rich have bounced back just a little bit faster than everyone else. That is to say, that for the first time in recorded history, the richest 10 percent of families received half of all income in 2012. This figure, which comes from an annual income inequality study by prominent economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, illustrates that "even after the recession the country remains in a kind of new Gilded Age."
The chart below shows the record gain:
You can see that in 2012, top 10 percent income share creeps above 50 percent for the first time.
Since the Great Recession, the rich have simply had an easier time getting back what they lost. Senior Brookings Institution fellow Justin Wolfers notes from the study that in the years since the crash (2009-2012), the average income of the top one percent has risen 31.4 percent, while the average income of the other 99 percent has risen only 0.4 percent. Saez, a professor at UC-Berkeley, wrote in his analysis,
These results suggest the Great Recession has only depressed top income shares temporarily and will not undo any of the dramatic increase in top income shares that has taken place since the 1970s.
There is a little bit of hope for the 99 percenters: while income growth was stagnant from 2009-2011, it started growing again in 2012. But only by about 1 percent.
Wolfers cautions, however, that "it's easy to wring your hands about inequality. Easier still, to laugh at apologists. Much harder to find policies yielding inclusive growth."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.