Aug. 17, 2004 – Over the last two decades, the income gap has steadily increased among the richest and poorest people in the US, according to the federal Census Bureau. In 2002, the wealthiest twenty percent of American households controlled half of total US household income, which includes wages, salaries and assets. Twenty years ago, the wealthiest twenty percent in the country accounted for 44 percent of U.S. household income.
In contrast, the bottom 20 percent of the US population controls 3.5 percent of that total. This marks a decrease from 1973, when the Census Bureau estimated that the bottom-fifth accounted for 4.2 percent of total US household income.
In dollar amounts, this means that in 2002, the mean household income of the top fifth of the US was $143,743, while that of the bottom fifth was $9,990. The figures, combined with the increasing expense of housing and health care, among other necessities, demonstrate the increased pressure facing the lower to lower-middle income groups in the US, compared with the country's wealthy.