Money

Here's how much the top 5% of Americans make in an hour

Wealth
Steve Mack | WireImage | Getty Images

While Americans making minimum wage are barely scraping by, the country's highest earners are thriving. According to data from the Economic Policy Institute's State of Working America data library, the top five percent of Americans earned $57.86 per hour on average in 2016.

That's nearly eight times as much as the federal minimum wage.

While it varies from state to state — the minimum wage has been stuck for years at $7.25 an hour at the federal level but it goes as high as $12.50 in Washington D.C. — in no state does working 40 hours a week for minimum wage enable a person to rent a median two-bedroom apartment. And only 0.1 percent of U.S. minimum wage workers can afford a one-bedroom apartment.

Here's how much Americans earned per hour at every level last year:

  • 10th percentile: $9.35
  • 20th percentile: $10.91
  • 30th percentile: $12.91
  • 40th percentile: $15.03
  • 50th percentile: $17.86
  • 60th percentile: $21.00
  • 70th percentile: $25.08
  • 80th percentile: $31.89
  • 90th percentile: $43.86
  • 95th percentile: $57.86

While the starkest difference is demonstrated between the upper middle class and minimum wage earners, the top five percent are also earning more than twice as much as the average American, who brings in $23.99 per hour.

To put this into a historical context, in 1981 the top five percent of Americans earned $38.05 per hour in 2016 dollars. Converted back into 1981 dollars, that's around $14 — only four times as much as the minimum wage at the time, $3.35.

A gap still existed, but it wasn't nearly as dramatic.

The amount the top earners bring in varies from state to state. While a $231,276 yearly salary will put you in the top one percent in New Mexico, you'll need an annual income of $659,979 to be in Connecticut's one percent, according to a 2013 Economic Policy Institute report.

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