The one percent

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Recent protest movements brought attention to the one percent, a segment of the population that is critical to understanding inequality and social mobility but that attracts relatively little research attention. In this article, I survey current research on the one percent in the United States. I distinguish income from wealth and show that both are very concentrated but that the concentration of wealth, particularly financial wealth, is extremely high. I describe the demographic traits and finances of households who are in the one percent and discuss how these have changed in the past decade. I review literature that explains rising top incomes, and I propose that future research will usefully concentrate more on top wealth owners and on the demographic and life course processes that underlie income and wealth concentration. I conclude by speculating about why Americans are so tolerant of resource concentration. © Copyright ©2014 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.






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Keister, LA (2014). The one percent. Annual Review of Sociology, 40. pp. 347–367. 10.1146/annurev-soc-070513-075314 Retrieved from

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Lisa A. Keister

Professor of Sociology

Lisa A. Keister is professor of sociology and public policy at Duke University and an affiliate of the Duke Network Analysis Center and the Duke Population Research Initiative. Her current research focuses on organization strategy, elite households, the processes that explain extremes in wealth and income inequality, and on group differences in the intergenerational transfer of assets. She has been focusing on the causes and consequences of net worth poverty recently with colleagues from the Sanford school and is currently completing two books: one on America’s wealthiest families, the one percent, and one on net worth poverty.

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