MarketWatch - Stock Market Quotes, Business News, Financial News
Bulletin
Investor Alert
need to know
Teco Energy jumps after Emera buyout offer
‘Transporter’ takes on ‘Straight Outta Compton’
U.S. details ‘flash crash’ case vs. U.K. trader
$46 million asking-price cut for megamansion
44 million tried Apple Music in its first month

When do markets close for Labor Day?

Has Robert Redford gotten it wrong on retirement?

What not to buy over Labor Day weekend

Labor Day traffic will be the U.S.’s worst since 2008

My father wanted to divide his estate, but my sister took it all
What to do when a parent dies and leaves no will
Money mistakes to avoid after a spouse’s death

speaks onstage during the 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert' panel discussion at the CBS portion of the 2015 Summer TCA Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 10, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.  
What Colbert should ask Musk and Uber boss
Stephen Colbert’s ‘Late Show’: What to expect

Surf the 10 stories you shouldn’t have missed

Hey, Twitter, is Jack Dorsey your CEO or what?

Tennis’s U.S. Open trots out grown-up ball people

What it’s like to play tennis with a ‘smart’ racket

Chicago clout woven through Navistar complaints

Green Giant faces uphill battle for millennial market

Chinese Navy ships in U.S. territorial waters
Watch China’s 90-minute parade in 60 seconds
See photos of China's massive military parade
China markets close for war anniversary

Donald Trump stumbles during interview on foreign policy
Trump stumbles in interview on foreign policy
Trump signs Republican loyalty pledge
Carson and Trump: Their policy differences
Trump as president: Bound to be GREAT!
Businessmen have done poorly as presidents
Also
Oops — Rick Perry says broken clock right once a day

Six actors who were almost cast as James Bond

Obscure trading strategy draws Wall Street’s ire

Technical-vs.-fundamental matchups put to test

Germany at fault in Europe’s refugee crisis
Immigration to Germany at highest since 1992
Chaos in Budapest as migrants rush trains
Father of drowned Syrian boy describes voyage

5 cars that make Tesla’s Model X look like a deal
Musk: Tesla Model 3 preorders begin in March
Tesla Model X ‘Signature’ runs at least $132,000
Best time to buy a new car may be at hand

These are the college majors that are dying

They tangled with student debt all summer
College help for low-income families

/conga/frontpage.html 354231

Markets »

127.27MDow Volume:
Avg Vol: 114.07M
Unchanged
226
Decliners
4346
Advancers
2012
Price Chg %Chg 1 Day
Range: 1 Day
  • 1 Day
  • 5 Days
  • 1 Month
  • 3 Months
  • 6 Months
  • 1 Year
  • 2 Years
Dow
/quotes/zigman/627449/realtime 16,102 -272 1.66%
Nasdaq
/quotes/zigman/12633936/realtime 4,684 -50 1.05%
S&P 500
/quotes/zigman/3870025/realtime 1,921 -30 1.53%
GlobalDow
/quotes/zigman/629063/realtime 2,282 -41 1.77%
Gold
/quotes/zigman/662444/delayed 1,122 -2 0.20%
Oil
/quotes/zigman/2331095/delayed 45.77 -0.98 2.10%
FTSE 100
/quotes/zigman/3173262/delayed 6,043 -151 2.44%
DAX
/quotes/zigman/2380246/delayed 10,038 -280 2.71%
CAC 40
/quotes/zigman/3173214/delayed 4,523 -131 2.81%
FTSE MIB
/quotes/zigman/1482176/delayed 21,473 -705 3.18%
IBEX 35
/quotes/zigman/2759620/delayed 9,822 -221 2.20%
Stoxx 600
/quotes/zigman/2380150/delayed 353 -9 2.52%
Asia Dow
/quotes/zigman/6959860/realtime 2,684 -29 1.06%
Nikkei 225
/quotes/zigman/5986735/delayed 17,792 -390 2.15%
Hang Seng
/quotes/zigman/2622475/delayed 20,841 -94 0.45%
Shanghai
/quotes/zigman/1859015/delayed 3,160 -6 0.20%
Sensex
/quotes/zigman/1652085/delayed 25,202 -563 2.18%
Singapore
/quotes/zigman/1709939/delayed 2,864 -43 1.47%
Euro
/quotes/zigman/16008136/realtime/sampled 1.12 +0.00 0.26%
Yen
/quotes/zigman/16008150/realtime/sampled 119.01 -1.06 0.88%
Pound
/quotes/zigman/16008140/realtime/sampled 1.52 -0.01 0.58%
Australia$
/quotes/zigman/16008115/realtime/sampled 0.69 -0.01 1.50%
DXY Index
/quotes/zigman/1652083/delayed 96.22 -0.18 0.19%
WSJ $ Idx
/quotes/zigman/41508961/realtime 88.96 +0.15 0.17%
U.S. 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866666/realtime 2.13 -0.03 1.47%
German 10y
/quotes/zigman/15866409/realtime 0.67 -0.05 7.51%
Italy 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866497/realtime 1.88 -0.04 2.06%
Spain 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866444/realtime 2.08 -0.03 1.41%
U.K. 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866328/realtime 1.72 -0.08 4.31%
Japan 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866525/realtime 0.37 -0.03 6.87%
Crude Oil
/quotes/zigman/2331095/delayed 46 -1 2.10%
Gold
/quotes/zigman/662444/delayed 1,122 -2 0.20%
Corn
/quotes/zigman/7599553/delayed 363 +1 0.28%
DJIA F
/quotes/zigman/38649152/delayed 16,090 -258 1.58%
S&P F
/quotes/zigman/30356461/delayed 1,918 -28 1.44%
Silver
/quotes/zigman/3134148/delayed 15 0 1.07%

Quotes

Symbol Price Change % Change
FB /quotes/zigman/9962609/composite 88.26 0.11 0.12%
AAPL /quotes/zigman/68270/composite 109.27 -1.10 -1.00%
GOOG /quotes/zigman/30194416/composite 600.70 -5.55 -0.92%
BAC /quotes/zigman/190927/composite 15.65 -0.29 -1.82%
C /quotes/zigman/5065548/composite 50.59 -1.20 -2.32%
F /quotes/zigman/264304/composite 13.56 -0.28 -2.02%
T /quotes/zigman/398198/composite 32.56 -0.48 -1.45%
BP /quotes/zigman/247026/composite 30.70 -1.71 -5.28%
GE /quotes/zigman/227468/composite 24.00 -0.51 -2.08%
Visit the quote page and your most recently viewed stocks will automatically be displayed here.
Please log in to view your watchlist
MarketWatch Portfolio

World News from MarketWatch

Rates »

5 yr CD
1.4%
2 yr CD
0.8%
1 yr CD
0.6%
MMA $10K+
0.3%
MMA $50K+
0.4%

National averages from Bankrate.com

You Don’t Need Another Credit Card, You Need A Better One.
Avg. APR Last Week 6 Months
Low Interest 11.62% 11.62% 11.53%
Business 12.85% 12.85% 12.85%
Student 13.14% 13.14% 13.14%
Balance Transfer 14.12% 14.12% 14.00%
Airline 15.10% 15.10% 15.15%
Reward 15.14% 15.14% 14.99%
Cash Back 15.27% 15.27% 15.26%
Instant Approval 18.00% 18.00% 17.93%
Bad Credit 22.73% 22.73% 22.48%
Source:CreditCards.com

SPONSORED SECTIONS

Trending Tickers
  • /quotes/zigman/227548/composite GIS-1.77%
  • /quotes/zigman/424043/composite FXA-1.17%
  • /quotes/zigman/45845333/composite MDT-1.43%
  • /quotes/zigman/225940/composite EMR-1.31%
  • /quotes/zigman/453625/composite FXY+0.84%
X
Powered by StockTwits
Link to MarketWatch's Slice.

As of July 2, 2013, the SmartMoney content you loved now lives on MarketWatch.

MarketWatch will continue to provide the same important news and information you rely on every day. And, as a MarketWatch user, you will be able to enjoy:

  • Personalized news and quote email alerts
  • Editorial e-newsletters about personal finance, mutual funds and market-specific coverage
  • Premium newsletters by our market experts
  • Games, such as Virtual Stock Exchange and Beat the Darts
  • Free WSJ.com registration

Email address

Password

Forgot password?

SmartMoney Blogs

Encore
A blog about living in and planning for retirement

Where Does the $250,000 Income Divide Come From?

It seems as though no one reads the Census annual publication Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States for anything but the number of people in poverty. The parts I find most interesting are those pertaining to the level and distribution of income.  The numbers go to the heart of conversations about the “middle class” and the “rich.”

Both President Obama and Governor Romney have adopted household income of $250,000 as a meaningful demarcation point for defining the middle class.  In the case of the President, he proposes to retain the Bush tax cuts for households with less than $250,000 and eliminate the tax cuts for those above that threshold.  Governor Romney in a recent ABC interview offered the same definition of the middle class: “Middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less.”

Where does this concept of $250,000 as the appropriate cutoff come from?  According to the data in the Census report shown in Table 1 below, which presents the thresholds for being in different parts of the income distribution, the median household in 2011 had an income of $50,054.  A household with an income of $143,611 was at the 90th percentile point, or in the top 10th of the income distribution.  A household with an income of $186,000 was at the 95th percentile, or in the top 5 percent.  The table does not even show households with $250,000, but they must be in the top 97th or 98th percentile.

Table 1. Household Income at Selected Percentiles, 2011

Percentile Dollar limit
10th $12,000
20th $20,262
50th (median) $50,054
80th $101,582
90th $143,611
95th $186,000

Source: U.S. Census Bureau. 2012. Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011. Table A-2.

The thresholds must be interpreted with caution because households include old and young, urban and rural, coastal and midland, and small and large.  But it is very hard to understand how anyone could think of $250,000 as the middle.  It seems like both candidates have a mental picture of the very rich and everyone else.

The “very-rich-versus-everyone-else” framework may come from data on the share of income earned by various households.  Here the Census data show that those in the top quintile – the highest-earning 20 percent – earn more than the bottom four quintiles combined (see Table 2).  That is, the top 20 percent receives more income than the bottom 80 percent.

Table 2. Shares of Household Income by Quintile, 2011

Quintile Share
Lowest quintile

 3.2

Second quintile

 8.4

Third quintile

 14.3

Fourth quintile

 23.0

Highest quintile

 51.1

Source: U.S. Census Bureau. 2012. Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011. Table A-2.

And a recent study by Emmanuel Saez shows that within the top quintile the distribution is also very skewed, so that the top one percent receives about 20 percent of total income.

Thus, while the $250,000 threshold makes no sense in describing the middle class, it seems like a relevant divide for defining where the money is.  Nevertheless, dividing the nation’s households into the “wealthy” and “the middle class” doesn’t seem like a useful exercise.  It pits the majority of Americans against the top 1 or 2 percent.  It suggests that the majority of Americans should not be called upon to solve the nation’s fiscal problems.  It violates the notion that we are all in this together.  Yes, the rich can contribute more, but we can all contribute something.

Comments

We welcome thoughtful comments from readers. Please comply with our guidelines. Our blogs do not require the use of your real name.

Comments (5 of 15)

View all Comments »
    • We have a progressive tax system whereby those with the higher incomes payer a higher percentage of their income in taxes. It was set up that way on purpose to be fair. And the article is right, the argument now is abouth whether or not the amount paid by all is what it should be. But regardless, this kind o a system is far better than a flat tax system whereby all income levels pay a fixed percentage in tax. This really screws the low wage earners.

    • Indeed it was an interesting end to the article. But I would conclude that who pays to fix our fiscal problems is the wrong approach. There aren’t enough “rich” people out there to keep up with politicians spending our money. Without spending control, taxes are irrevalent.

    • Are you kidding me??????????? 250,000 middle income. That is just ridiculous. I wish I had that income. I guess we are in the poverty level. What is wrong with Obama and Romney and their thinking??????????????

    • @Hoggrun: I’m pretty sure if you filed separately you’d be treated the same as if you divorced. Granted only one could use mortgage deduction and other things, but as for the 200 vs 250k for a family rate I think you’d be okay. Consult an accountant

    • The more the Government collects, the more it spends. There is no such line in practice. Many middle class family’s income fluctuates and is almost never the same from year to year.
      Example, if I sell assets this year my income tax bracket goes up, if I buy tax exempt assets next year my income goes way down so are the tax liabilities.
      My point is that, if you classify people in the ability to earn money, they will find way to circumvent the tax liabilities, no matter how hard the new tax law will be. I for example will pay myself with stock shares and cash just enough stocks to cover my cost of living expenses, making me a tax dodger, while I still keep my money piling up in the company. And if I like to ever cash out, I can buy another company and declare tax loses in the transactions and cash my new stocks for free.

      Obama is misguiding the people and is only fooling himself by demanding such tax brackets, it will never work.

About Encore

  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.

MarketWatch - Stock Market Quotes, Business News, Financial News
Bulletin
Investor Alert
need to know
Teco Energy jumps after Emera buyout offer
‘Transporter’ takes on ‘Straight Outta Compton’
U.S. details ‘flash crash’ case vs. U.K. trader
$46 million asking-price cut for megamansion
44 million tried Apple Music in its first month

When do markets close for Labor Day?

Has Robert Redford gotten it wrong on retirement?

What not to buy over Labor Day weekend

Labor Day traffic will be the U.S.’s worst since 2008

My father wanted to divide his estate, but my sister took it all
What to do when a parent dies and leaves no will
Money mistakes to avoid after a spouse’s death

speaks onstage during the 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert' panel discussion at the CBS portion of the 2015 Summer TCA Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 10, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.  
What Colbert should ask Musk and Uber boss
Stephen Colbert’s ‘Late Show’: What to expect

Surf the 10 stories you shouldn’t have missed

Hey, Twitter, is Jack Dorsey your CEO or what?

Tennis’s U.S. Open trots out grown-up ball people

What it’s like to play tennis with a ‘smart’ racket

Chicago clout woven through Navistar complaints

Green Giant faces uphill battle for millennial market

Chinese Navy ships in U.S. territorial waters
Watch China’s 90-minute parade in 60 seconds
See photos of China's massive military parade
China markets close for war anniversary

Donald Trump stumbles during interview on foreign policy
Trump stumbles in interview on foreign policy
Trump signs Republican loyalty pledge
Carson and Trump: Their policy differences
Trump as president: Bound to be GREAT!
Businessmen have done poorly as presidents
Also
Oops — Rick Perry says broken clock right once a day

Six actors who were almost cast as James Bond

Obscure trading strategy draws Wall Street’s ire

Technical-vs.-fundamental matchups put to test

Germany at fault in Europe’s refugee crisis
Immigration to Germany at highest since 1992
Chaos in Budapest as migrants rush trains
Father of drowned Syrian boy describes voyage

5 cars that make Tesla’s Model X look like a deal
Musk: Tesla Model 3 preorders begin in March
Tesla Model X ‘Signature’ runs at least $132,000
Best time to buy a new car may be at hand

These are the college majors that are dying

They tangled with student debt all summer
College help for low-income families

/conga/frontpage.html 354231

Markets »

127.27MDow Volume:
Avg Vol: 114.07M
Unchanged
226
Decliners
4346
Advancers
2012
Price Chg %Chg 1 Day
Range: 1 Day
  • 1 Day
  • 5 Days
  • 1 Month
  • 3 Months
  • 6 Months
  • 1 Year
  • 2 Years
Dow
/quotes/zigman/627449/realtime 16,102 -272 1.66%
Nasdaq
/quotes/zigman/12633936/realtime 4,684 -50 1.05%
S&P 500
/quotes/zigman/3870025/realtime 1,921 -30 1.53%
GlobalDow
/quotes/zigman/629063/realtime 2,282 -41 1.77%
Gold
/quotes/zigman/662444/delayed 1,122 -2 0.20%
Oil
/quotes/zigman/2331095/delayed 45.77 -0.98 2.10%
FTSE 100
/quotes/zigman/3173262/delayed 6,043 -151 2.44%
DAX
/quotes/zigman/2380246/delayed 10,038 -280 2.71%
CAC 40
/quotes/zigman/3173214/delayed 4,523 -131 2.81%
FTSE MIB
/quotes/zigman/1482176/delayed 21,473 -705 3.18%
IBEX 35
/quotes/zigman/2759620/delayed 9,822 -221 2.20%
Stoxx 600
/quotes/zigman/2380150/delayed 353 -9 2.52%
Asia Dow
/quotes/zigman/6959860/realtime 2,684 -29 1.06%
Nikkei 225
/quotes/zigman/5986735/delayed 17,792 -390 2.15%
Hang Seng
/quotes/zigman/2622475/delayed 20,841 -94 0.45%
Shanghai
/quotes/zigman/1859015/delayed 3,160 -6 0.20%
Sensex
/quotes/zigman/1652085/delayed 25,202 -563 2.18%
Singapore
/quotes/zigman/1709939/delayed 2,864 -43 1.47%
Euro
/quotes/zigman/16008136/realtime/sampled 1.12 +0.00 0.26%
Yen
/quotes/zigman/16008150/realtime/sampled 119.01 -1.06 0.88%
Pound
/quotes/zigman/16008140/realtime/sampled 1.52 -0.01 0.58%
Australia$
/quotes/zigman/16008115/realtime/sampled 0.69 -0.01 1.50%
DXY Index
/quotes/zigman/1652083/delayed 96.22 -0.18 0.19%
WSJ $ Idx
/quotes/zigman/41508961/realtime 88.96 +0.15 0.17%
U.S. 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866666/realtime 2.13 -0.03 1.47%
German 10y
/quotes/zigman/15866409/realtime 0.67 -0.05 7.51%
Italy 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866497/realtime 1.88 -0.04 2.06%
Spain 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866444/realtime 2.08 -0.03 1.41%
U.K. 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866328/realtime 1.72 -0.08 4.31%
Japan 10yr
/quotes/zigman/15866525/realtime 0.37 -0.03 6.87%
Crude Oil
/quotes/zigman/2331095/delayed 46 -1 2.10%
Gold
/quotes/zigman/662444/delayed 1,122 -2 0.20%
Corn
/quotes/zigman/7599553/delayed 363 +1 0.28%
DJIA F
/quotes/zigman/38649152/delayed 16,090 -258 1.58%
S&P F
/quotes/zigman/30356461/delayed 1,918 -28 1.44%
Silver
/quotes/zigman/3134148/delayed 15 0 1.07%

Quotes

Symbol Price Change % Change
FB /quotes/zigman/9962609/composite 88.26 0.11 0.12%
AAPL /quotes/zigman/68270/composite 109.27 -1.10 -1.00%
GOOG /quotes/zigman/30194416/composite 600.70 -5.55 -0.92%
BAC /quotes/zigman/190927/composite 15.65 -0.29 -1.82%
C /quotes/zigman/5065548/composite 50.59 -1.20 -2.32%
F /quotes/zigman/264304/composite 13.56 -0.28 -2.02%
T /quotes/zigman/398198/composite 32.56 -0.48 -1.45%
BP /quotes/zigman/247026/composite 30.70 -1.71 -5.28%
GE /quotes/zigman/227468/composite 24.00 -0.51 -2.08%
Visit the quote page and your most recently viewed stocks will automatically be displayed here.
Please log in to view your watchlist
MarketWatch Portfolio

World News from MarketWatch

Rates »

5 yr CD
1.4%
2 yr CD
0.8%
1 yr CD
0.6%
MMA $10K+
0.3%
MMA $50K+
0.4%

National averages from Bankrate.com

You Don’t Need Another Credit Card, You Need A Better One.
Avg. APR Last Week 6 Months
Low Interest 11.62% 11.62% 11.53%
Business 12.85% 12.85% 12.85%
Student 13.14% 13.14% 13.14%
Balance Transfer 14.12% 14.12% 14.00%
Airline 15.10% 15.10% 15.15%
Reward 15.14% 15.14% 14.99%
Cash Back 15.27% 15.27% 15.26%
Instant Approval 18.00% 18.00% 17.93%
Bad Credit 22.73% 22.73% 22.48%
Source:CreditCards.com

SPONSORED SECTIONS

Trending Tickers
  • /quotes/zigman/227548/composite GIS-1.77%
  • /quotes/zigman/424043/composite FXA-1.17%
  • /quotes/zigman/45845333/composite MDT-1.43%
  • /quotes/zigman/225940/composite EMR-1.31%
  • /quotes/zigman/453625/composite FXY+0.84%
X
Powered by StockTwits
Link to MarketWatch's Slice.

As of July 2, 2013, the SmartMoney content you loved now lives on MarketWatch.

MarketWatch will continue to provide the same important news and information you rely on every day. And, as a MarketWatch user, you will be able to enjoy:

  • Personalized news and quote email alerts
  • Editorial e-newsletters about personal finance, mutual funds and market-specific coverage
  • Premium newsletters by our market experts
  • Games, such as Virtual Stock Exchange and Beat the Darts
  • Free WSJ.com registration

Email address

Password

Forgot password?