I earlier suggested we should adopt India’s practice of referring to the better off segments of society as “the creamy layer,” but Krugman’s latest column suggests that the creamy layer has its own creamy layer:
A few days ago Steve Pearlstein of the Washington Post — a good guy, and sensible — wrote about income inequality. As I did in my column just a few days earlier, “Feeling No Pain,” he emphasized the “retrospective income” distribution data released by the I.R.S. (Paper at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-soi/04asastr.pdf. Tables at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-soi/04asastr.xls.)
As he pointed out, those data show that the share of income received by the top 10 percent of taxpayers rose from 33 percent in 1979 to 44 percent in 2003.
… But Pearlstein stops there, leaving the impression that everyone in the top 10 percent was a big winner. In fact, there was hardly any rise in the share of income going to people between the 90th and 95th percentiles: almost all the gain went to the top 5 percent. And most of the gain went to a very small elite. The income share of the top 1 percent went from 9.6 to 17.5 percent, accounting for more than 70 percent of the top decile’s gain. The income share of the top 0.25 percent went from 4.9 to 10.5, accounting for a bit more than half the total gain.