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Who will join the wealthiest one percent club this year?
Friday January 30, 2015 2:55 PM, IANS

Researchers from the Washington University in St. Louis and Cornell University have revealed that there is a one in nine chance that a typical American will hit the jackpot and join the wealthiest one percent club for at least one year in her or his working life.

Now the bad news.

The same team says only an elite few get to stay in that economic stratosphere and non-white workers remain among those who face far longer odds.

"Rather than static groups that experience continual high levels of economic attainment, there would appear to be more movement into and out of these income levels," said Mark Rank, the Herbert S. Hadley Professor of Social Welfare at the Brown School, Washington University.

"Education, marriage and race are among the strongest predictors of top-level income and, in particular, the race effect suggests persistent patterns of social inequality," the authors wrote.

The latest research from Rank and Tom Hirschl, professor of development sociology at Cornell, used a new "life course" methodology to examine social mobility at the top levels of income distribution.

The large-scale observation found that by age 60, almost 70 percent of the working population will experience at least one year in the top 20 percent of income earners.

At the very top, while one in nine Americans may at some time in their careers be among the top one percent, fewer than one in 160 (0.6 percent) will stay for a decade or more.

"Attaining 10 consecutive years at the top is rare, and reflects the idea that only a few persist at this elite level," Rank observed.

It would be misguided to presume that the top-level income attainment is solely a function of hard work, diligence and equality of opportunity.

"A more nuanced interpretation includes the proposition that access to the top-level income is influenced by historic patterns of race and class inequality," they concluded.

The study was published in the journal PLOS One.

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