Ming the Mechanic:
Rich people don't show on U.S. census

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Rich people don't show on U.S. census2002-12-31 14:02
18 comments
by Flemming Funch

From an article by Michael Parenti, quoted at SynEarth
"The super rich, the less than 1 percent of the population who own the lion's share of the nation's wealth, go uncounted in most income distribution reports. Even those who purport to study the question regularly overlook the very wealthiest among us. For instance, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, relying on the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, released a report in December 1997 showing that in the last two decades "incomes of the richest fifth increased by 30 percent or nearly $27,000 after adjusting for inflation." The average income of the top 20 percent was $117,500, or almost 13 times larger than the $9,250 average income of the poorest 20 percent.

But where are the super rich? An average of $117,500 is an upper-middle income, not at all representative of a rich cohort, let alone a super rich one. All such reports about income distribution are based on U.S. Census Bureau surveys that regularly leave Big Money out of the picture. A few phone calls to the Census Bureau in Washington D.C. revealed that for years the bureau never interviewed anyone who had an income higher than $300,000. Or if interviewed, they were never recorded as above the "reportable upper limit" of $300,000, the top figure allowed by the bureau's computer program. In 1994, the bureau lifted the upper limit to $1 million. This still excludes the very richest who own the lion's share of the wealth, the hundreds of billionaires and thousands of multimillionaires who make many times more than $1 million a year. The super rich simply have been computerized out of the picture."
That is probably a pattern to watch. A lot of things can go unreported and relatively unnoticed because there just isn't an official category for it. You won't be counted in the traffic statistic if you fly your own jet. You won't be counted as a bank customer if you own the bank. Your political views won't be polled, because you're more likely to buy both candidates than to vote for anybody. There's a level at which you become invisible among the regular folks.


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