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Started From the Bottom: Here Are Your Chances of Making It Into the 1%

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Drake may have “started from the bottom,” but even he had to start somewhere. In his case, it was at Degrassi; most people’s stories will have much more humble roots. For the overwhelming majority of Americans, those roots are buried deep in the 99% — that is, the lower level of earners. Although the talk around the 1% versus the 99% may have fizzled in recent years, we’re much more acutely aware of income inequality than ever before.

Even as political figures, such as Bernie Sanders, fight to help level the playing field, the rich are getting richer. And with one of the country’s billionaires now in the White House, you can bet there won’t be many 99%-friendly policies enacted anytime soon.

But that certainly doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Although most of us won’t ever reach the tippy-top, we probably won’t find ourselves on the bottom of the pile either. In fact, your odds of making it into the top 20% are actually pretty good.

We looked at some data published by NPR’s Planet Money to get a better idea of what exactly the odds are. The data shows the likelihood that an American household will climb into different income strata (top 10% versus 20%, for example) at some point in their lives. The data itself is “from Mark Rank and Thomas Hirschl, who have analyzed over 40 years of household income data.”

Before we dig into the probabilities, though, we’ll define just what exactly it takes to become a member of the top 1%.

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