What Is Income Distribution Like in the United States?


Quick Answer

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the median household income in the United States was $53,657 in 2014 and that the country had a Gini index of 0.48, which indicates a medium level of income inequality and is lower than the world's estimated average. While the top 1 percent of households earned less than 10 percent of the country's total income in the late 1970s, that group's earnings rose to 20 percent of the country's total income by 2012.

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Full Answer

In 2014, 17.1 percent of Americans earned between $50,000 and $74,999, a larger percentage than any other income range. The smallest number of Americans, 5.6 percent, earned at the highest income range of $200,000 and above, while 12.6 percent of Americans earned at the lowest income range, under $15,000.

Ranging from one to zero, the Gini index measures income distribution. Zero indicates total income equality, meaning that every person receives equal income. One indicates total income inequality, meaning that one person receives all the income. In 2005, the estimate for the world's Gini index was 0.68. The U.S. Gini index increased 5.9 percent from 1993 to 2014.

The 2014 poverty threshold in the United States was $24,230 for a family of four. The total number of families under this threshold was 9.5 million or 11.6 percent of the population.

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