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The One Percenters Include More Doctors than Lawyers

Posted Nov 2, 2011 7:38 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Lawyers are well-represented in the top 1 percent of earners, but they still are outranked by business people, doctors and finance professionals.

That’s the conclusion of a study of 2005 tax data by economists Jon Bakija, Adam Cole and Bradley Heim. The New York Times Economix blog reported on the results, and New York Times columnist David Brooks has a column commenting on the implications.

The researchers found that lawyers make up about 8 percent of the top 1 percent. Here are the top five professions in the top 1 percent, based on distribution of income excluding capital gains:

1) Executives, managers, supervisors (nonfinance): 31 percent

2) Medical: 15.7 percent

3) Financial professions, including management: 13.9 percent

4) Lawyers: 8.4 percent

5) Computer, math, engineering, technical (nonfinance): 4.6 percent

According to Brooks, income inequality isn’t nearly as important as educational differences. Today, college grads are more likely to get married, less likely to get divorced, less likely to have a child out of wedlock, less likely to be obese, and more likely to have larger friendship circles. The average college graduate makes 75 percent more than the average high school grad.

“If your ultimate goal is to reduce inequality, then you should be furious at the doctors, bankers and CEOs,” Brooks writes. “If your goal is to expand opportunity, then you have a much bigger and different agenda.”

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