From The Grio — This is part one of a three-part series exploring the demographics, opinions and challenges of black Americans who are part of the “black 1 percent” — the top earning black households in the U.S. CNBC’s Shartia Brantley is a regular contributor to theGrio.

The Occupy movement has stretched far beyond the borders of Wall Street in just over two months. Protesters energetically hoist signs and carry posters that read “We are the 99 percent.” But who are the 1 percent that have angered so many and sparked a national movement? And how many blacks are a part of the top 1 percent?

It turns out: not many.

Blacks comprise 13.6 percent of the U.S. population according to the 2010 Census, but account for only 1.4 percent of the top 1 percent of households by income. Whites are the overwhelming majority of the top 1 percent of households by income, comprising 96.2 percent. (Results were calculated from 2007 data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances and the Tax Policy Center’s tax table, The income cutoff to be a part of the top 1 percent was $646,195.)

Samuel Myers, the Roy Wilkins Professor of Human Relations and Social Justice at the Humphreys School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota says it’s no surprise blacks share of the top 1 percent is low.

“Racial minority group members hold a small share of top earnings, top wealth and top holdings of assets in virtually every data set and every time period relative to their representation in the overall population,” Myers told theGrio,

Blacks Have a Thin Slice of the Pie


Even within the top 1 percent of wage earners there is a disparity. Top earning black households have a median income of $823,000, which is 22 percent less than whites and considerably less when compared to Hispanics.

Despite the shortfall in income, top earning blacks fare better on income than on net worth when compared to other groups.

“The income gap between black and white 1 percenters is much smaller than [the gap between] blacks and whites in the 99 percenters,” according to William Rodgers, Professor of Public Policy at Rutgers University and former Chief Economist at the Labor Department. “The chasm still exists in assets among the top 1 percent,”

“We’re getting income, but blacks have not had the generation to accumulate the amount of assets of White counterparts,” Rodgers said.

Who Are the Black 1 Percent?

Top earning black households are more likely to be in their mid-40s or older and college educated. About 67 percent reported no industry or employment, drawing their income from assets and investments.

Finance, insurance, real estate, employment services, mining, and construction industries account for 2 percent of top black earners.

However, there is a greater representation in durable goods manufacturing, non durable goods manufacturing, publishing, performing arts and spectator sports industries, which account for 37 percent of the top earners.

“Disproportionately, they are in entertainment, sports, and speculative investing activities,” says Myers.

A black “1 percenter,” who serves as a senior executive for a Fortune 500 company and asked not to be identified, says he is building first generation wealth. “Every African-American I know that has achieved wealth has done it by hard work,” he said. “Our legacy is not passing on wealth, but passing on [the] work ethic.”

He’s optimistic the hard work will translate into greater assets. “As we build more wealth, this will likely be given to the next generation.”

(Continue Reading @ The Grio…)

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  • lala

    This is so informative keep it coming !

    Also I watched the documentary: Born rich and 1 % by Jamie Johnson. And I was so shocked there were no black people in it. He made a comment about it too saying the only black person allowed in the country tennis club was a famous athelic. Seriously we need research on this subject

    The 1 percent I could think of who where black were Oprah, Beyonce Jay-Z ect and they all made there fortune trough entertainement that there is quit disturbing. Black people need to know there are more ways to make money mainly by being educated and being in the BUSINESS sector. By owning a business and Im not talking about a little beautysalon think Bigger like mabye your own franchise.

    Im from the EU but have been in New York this summer for 3 months and I was staying In Harlem with some relatives all the cornershops on the mainstreet are owend by non-black people what the fuck is up with that.(No wait I forgot some stores are owned by black people but there from the west indies or Africa they are not of Afro-American decent. No other culture would be oke with having people who are not from there background run things. Wake-up ?I dont think this is a race thing but a cultural thing people need to be more entrepreneurial and learn how to work together as a group also they need to know that they can OWN stuff and not have to been OWNED by anyone else.

    • African Mami

      @ lala,,

      Just so you know Harlem is Little Africa hence the African owned businesses all over the place.

    • lala

      @ African Mami

      Im sorry but Harlem is not known as little Africa around the world. Its is known for being a cultural centrum of Afro-American progressive culture something like Atlanta or a black wallstreet. BTW I dont have anything against the africans or west-indian Im glad there there at all. I just find it shocking that relatively small percentage is Africann American owned and a large percentage is owend by people of Asian, Indian or Arabic decent.

      That shit would not fly in there counrty. I really liked the article and also to make Black people around the world aware of owning your own stuff.

      still a majority of the shops are owned by Asian and Indians and some sp

  • Robert

    I am poor. Hate me and label me a burden.
    I am now rich. Hate me and label me 1%.
    I am poor again, hate me and label me a failure.

  • JC

    Let’s be careful. Having a large black 1% doesn’t mean that the typical black person will be better off. Here is lesson that black immigrants can give to African Americans. Extremely wealthy and powerful black people are just as talented as extremely wealthy and powerful white people at creating unfair economic systems. Sometimes I think African Americans spend so much time struggling against institutions headed by white people that they forget that their own people can do it just as well.

    Its nice to hear about the black 1 percent, especially to show the world that black people can be really talented and innovative. But we should remember that the mark of progress is when the average black person is doing well.

  • Question: In the 2007 data from the ‘Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances and the Tax Policy Center’s tax table’, what race are the 1.6% ‘other groups’?

  • Yasua

    ALL TRUE. Jail straight up Slavery, designed for us just like, drugs guns in the hood… But there’s a BIGGER picture.So who U gonna vote for? Romney? Who wants to do WORSE? U got a choice of 2 and it does affect you/US! One of em CLEARLY wants to take away Medicare, Housing, Food, jobs, your right to vote which our elders died for. Shit definitely ain’t good but the GOP got a whole new hell they ready 2 drop on us. You think WE got it bad now, PAY ATTENTION. Check out that Ryan budget, Wisconsin, trying to force Eric Holder to resign but cause he’s trying to stop the voter purging, NY’s stop every nigga walking law. We got to start paying attention. There is no perfect candidate but chose one. Don’t just get mad, bitch and do nothing because thats what the powers that be ie. The Koch brothers and such are counting on. Thats why they own the Congress, Wisconsin and counting… If we don’t stop this corporate take over we’ll ALL 99% truly be slaves, homeless, dying with no medical coverage or in camps. We gotta WAKE UP. I know I shouldn’t speak the truth on fb but my people just don’t get it. They spending Billions confusing us with BS so we don’t see the BIG PICTURE. Shit, somebody gotta say something. I’m from South Central and Inglewood
    I know poverty, I live it.