Here’s a chart for Mint.com by Column Five Media that tells us as much about America’s fraught relationship to money as any sign at Zuccotti Park. That’s because it reveals how Americans perceive wealth. Is it earning $60,000 a year? A net worth of more than $5 million?
Predictably, answers–based on Gallup polls–split along demographic fault lines, like gender, age, and geography. Men think they need to earn more money to qualify as rich compared with women. So do people in cities and suburbs compared with those who live in towns and rural areas. Adults with children under 18 define wealth as earning $200,000 a year. Adults without children peg it at half that.
No real surprises there. The big shocker is that people’s responses are by and large fairly modest. Overall, Americans say that being loaded means earning just $150,000 a year.
That figure has shifted some over time; in 2003, it was $120,000. And nowadays compared with eight years ago, a larger chunk of people would only consider themselves rich if they brought in at least $1 million a year.
But the majority still believe a person can live in the lap of luxury by earning much less. Note how many people define “rich” as an annual income of less than $60,000.
Contrast that to what actual rich people rake in, and it’s a drop in the bucket. Remember: The average family income of the top 1% is more than $1 million a year. Occupy Wall Street exposed the vast gap between the 1% and the 99%. But just as wide, apparently, is the gap between what rich is and what we think rich is.
[Hat tip to Visualizing.org]