In my post below about our kitchen flood, commenter Bubblehead Les asked me how it felt to be in the Top 1% (because I actually had enough emergency fund money set aside to pay cash for a $1,300 refrigerator). All snark aside, the ability to purchase luxury goods and services because I earned and saved some money is indeed nice. Make no mistake, refrigeration *IS* a luxury. Most of the world has to do without it.
Strictly speaking though, the top 1% worldwide is not a very high bar. Our poorest citizens, those making <$5,000 per year, are in the top 15% of income earners worldwide. Does this make them rich? It depends upon your perspective. In the abstract, it does. In our Second World economy with its high cost of living? Not really.
According to the Census Department, we have 118,682,000 households reporting income in 2010. Dividing this into fifths (quintiles), you get 23,736,000 households in each quintile.
In terms of quintiles, our bottom 20%, with incomes under $20,000 annually, are in the top 15% (that bar being only about $2500 per year).
The second quintile, with incomes between $20,000 and $38039, is in the top 10% worldwide.
Our middle fifth (the average earners in our nation), with incomes between $38,040 and $61,719, is in the top 1% worldwide.
I will let you refer to the charts to glean what information you can. Generally speaking those people who work, have some education, and make good choices about relationships tend to do better than those who don't.
We live in the greatest country the world has even known. We have the ability to do almost anything in an attempt to earn a living. We can choose to save, spend, invest, or squander whatever we earn. We have choices open to us that most of the world can only dream of.
Attempting to change our economic meritocracy into a system of cronyism, rent-seeking, Marxist-redistributionism, or Socialism in the name of "Democracy" and "Fairness" misses the fundamental aspects of our Republic: Equality of opportunity and preservation of property rights. What you work for, what you *EARN*, you get to keep (most of, anyway) or dispose of as you will. It is too bad that the useful idiots in the "OccupySomething" protests weren't taught this in college.
Make good choices, you can buy luxury goods and services. Make poor choices, live a life that is relatively poorer as a consequence. Works for me.
2010 Census data on Income Quintiles and Income Distribution
Worldwide data pulled from Globalrichlist.com