Friday, November 30, 2012

Who are the rich?

A 1997 survey by Princeton Survey Research Associates asked "Which one of the following areas of the economy do you think accounts for the largest number of new wealthy Americans?"  and offered several choices.  The percent choosing each:

computers and software                 34%
communications                          7%
entertainment and sports               23%
Wall Street,                          
   investments and stock trading       16%
banking and other financial services    5%
international economic development      4%
small business formation                5%
Don't know                              6%

It's not possible to compare these responses to reality, since the categories omit major areas of the economy (including real estate and most retail and manufacturing), and aren't always mutually exclusive (e. g., small business and computers and software).  Still, the percentage naming "entertainment and sports" is remarkably high, beating Wall Street and banking combined.  The best estimates of the occupations of rich people, by Jon Bakija, Adam Cole, and Bradley Heim, are that about 12% of the top 1% were in finance and 1.7% in "arts, media, and sports."  If you use the top 0.1%, the figures were 14% for finance and 3.5% for arts, media, and sports.  By their estimates, the biggest occupation for rich people is "executives, managers, and supervisors, non-finance".

People with higher incomes were more likely to choose "small business formation" and less likely to choose "banking and other financial services," but those are minority opinions in all groups.  The proportions choosing computers, entertainment, and Wall Street were about the same regardless of income.   

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