Meet the 20 Percent: Wealthy Social Liberals Standing Against Efforts to Fight Income Inequality

The "20 percent" don’t want their taxes raised in an effort to reduce inequality.

Photo Credit: Boule/

You’ve heard about the one percent.  Now how about the twenty percent?

The Associated Press’ Hope Yen has a detailed look at the twenty percent of adult Americans who may pose a barrier to lessening income inequality.  While these people are socially liberal, they don’t want their taxes raised in an effort to reduce inequality.  In the years 2007-2009--a time when many Americans saw their paychecks decrease--twenty percent of working-age Americans saw their salaries stay the same or rise.

Defined as making $250,000 a year or more for at least one year in their lifetime, the twenty percent’s members include older professionals, educated singles and working married couples. Making at least $250,000 a year puts them in the top two percent of earners, though they are also operating in a fragile economy that could easily jolt them out of their comfortable position.

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This group of people is less likely to support public assistance programs.  According to a Gallup poll released in October, 60 percent of those who earned  $90,000 or more said average Americans had a lot of opportunities to get ahead. At the same time, many support the Democratic Party, though Mitt Romney garnered 54 percent of their votes.  That fact may temper Democrats’ willingness to air full-throated populism.

“For the Democrats' part, traditional economic populism is poorly suited for affluent professionals,” Alan Abramowitz, a professor at Emory University who focuses on political polarization, told the AP.


Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.