Economist Mark Perry writes in his blog Carpe Diem, Evidence shows significant mobility in income and affluence – 73% of Americans will be in ‘top 20%’ for at least a year:


quoted from Mark Rank from the New York Times, From Rags to Riches:

It is clear that the image of a static 1 and 99 percent is largely incorrect. The majority of Americans will experience at least one year of affluence at some point during their working careers. (This is just as true at the bottom of the income distribution scale, where 54% of Americans will experience poverty or near poverty at least once between the ages of 25 and 60).

Ultimately, this information suggests that the United States is indeed a land of opportunity, that the American dream is still possible — but that it is also a land of widespread poverty. And rather than being a place of static, income-based social tiers, America is a place where a large majority of people will experience either wealth or poverty — or both — during their lifetimes.

Rather than talking about the 1 percent and the 99 percent as if they were forever fixed, it would make much more sense to talk about the fact that Americans are likely to be exposed to both prosperity and poverty during their lives, and to shape our policies accordingly. As such, we have much more in common with one another than we dare to realize.


Much of the data and information on social inequality is misleading and hard to measure.  Thomas Sowell has spoke of the need to recognize that individual journeys are also very different than a description of mere statistical categories.  This piece adds another dimension that even individuals rise and fall among categories during the course of a single life.