Household income in the U.S. - shares of quintiles 1970-2018

This statistic shows the shares of household income of quintiles in the United States from 1970 to 2018. About 52 percent of the household income of private households in the U.S. were earned by the highest quintile in 2018, which are the upper 20 percent of the workers. In contrast to that, in the same year, only 3.1 percent of the household income are earned by the lowest quintile. This relation between the quintiles illustrates the income inequality in the United States.

Income inequality

Income inequality is a big topic for public discussion in the United States. About 65 percent of U.S. Americans think that the gap between the rich and the poor has gotten larger in the past ten years.
This impression is backed up by U.S. census data showing that the Gini-coefficient for income distribution in the United States has been increasing constantly over the past decades for individuals and households. The Gini coefficient for individual earnings of full-time, year round workers has increased between 1990 and 2018 from 0.36 to 0.42, for example. This indicates an increase in concentration of income. In general, the Gini coefficient is calculated by looking at average income rates. A score of zero would reflect perfect income equality and a score of one indicates a society where one person would have all the money and all other people have nothing.
Income distribution is also affected by region. The District of Columbia had the widest gap between rich and poor people in the United States with a Gini coefficient of 0.53, as of 2018.
In global comparison, South Africa lead the ranking of the 20 countries with the biggest inequality in income distribution in 2017. South Africa had a score of 63.4 points, based on the Gini coefficient. On the other hand, the Gini coefficient stood at 16.6 in Azerbaijan, indicating that income is widely spread among the population and not concentrated on a few rich individuals or families. Azerbaijan led the ranking of the 20 countries with the greatest income distribution equality in 2017.

Shares of household income of quintiles in the United States from 1970 to 2018

Lowest quintileSecond quintileThird quintileFourth quintileHighest quintile
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Release date

September 2019


United States

Survey time period

1970 to 2018

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Statistics on "Poverty and Income in the United States"

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