Having Fun with Income Distribution

Barry L. Ritholtz ([email protected].) founder and chief investment officer of Ritholtz Wealth Management, a financial planning and asset management firm, with $130 million in assets, is also an irreverent commentator and columnist for Bloomberg View and the Washington Post. His 2010 book, “Bailout Nation,” was judged one of the best books on the financial crisis by The New York Times. Beyond his commentary and published articles, Ritholtz also authors The Big Picture — a leading financial weblog, generating several million page views per month. The Big Picture covers Investing & Trading to Macro Economics, and everything else in between.

Here is his take on U.S. income distribution, aided by visual graphics designer Catherine Mulbrandon of Visualizing Economics:

“When it comes to the top 0.01 percent of earners, it is extremely challenging to describe the differences in terms of income. Words often fail to convey the massive range.

Fortunately for us, Catherine Mulbrandon of Visualizing Economics has put together a simple chart that shows just how fantastic the spread was in 2010 between those who are merely rich and the fabulously wealthy. This is an unweighted scale. It isn’t skewed for population. It merely ranks top incomes by dollars earned.

The top of the chart shows the highest earning hedge fund manager. Toward the lower quartile, we see the average compensation for the top 25 hedge fund managers. How these lower quartile folks even show their faces at the club is beyond me, given their pitiful earnings.

Then we get to the unwashed masses.

From the bottom up: 99 percent of all earners are represented by a red dot at the very bottom of the spectrum. The cutoff for the 99.99 percent is a touch above that. And not too far above that is the top Major League Baseball earner, a guy whose pathetic salary resides below even the average income of the top 25 hedge fund managers. On this chart, the rest of the ballplayers are a bunch of slacker ne’er do wells, earning toward the bottom of the scale. It’s no wonder Derek Jeter is retiring.”

A new report from MSN Money illustrates how the political elite is getting very rich by plundering honest Americans. America has 3,033 counties, and they identified the 15 richest jurisdictions from that list.

You may be wondering, by the way, about the location of the other counties in the top 15. Well, four of them are suburbs of New York City, meaning that they are home to rich Wall Street people who mooched from the taxpayers thanks to TARP bailouts and other subsidies.

Source: Created by Catherine Mulbrandon at VisualizingEconomics.com

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