Households of the rich and more rich

Photo by Guimo

2010 was a good year for the rich (though you could argue that every year is a good year for the rich). But 2010 was especially good because their club got a little bit bigger:

• Households worth $100,000 or more (not including the value of their primary residence) grew in rank to 36.2 million ( from 34.6 million the year before)

• Within that sample, the "broader affluent population" (worth $500,000 or more, house not included) rose by 6 percent to 13.5 million (from 12.7 million)

• The number of U.S. households worth at least $1 million (again, not including their house) rose to 8.4 million (an 8 percent growth from 2009's millionaire count of 7.8 million)

• The "ultra high net worth" millionaires (whose worth is at least $5 million sans house) grew to 1.06 million (an 8 percent jump for the previous year's tally of 980,000)

• The number of households worth $25 million or more (first house not included) rose to 105,000 in 2010 (up from 9,700 in 2009 — an insane 1,000 percent growth rate, according to this chart

Yippee! Hurrah! The American dream lives on! For the rich, at least. CNN Money reported the numbers, which were compiled by the Spectrem Group (offering "affluent market insights" and a website called Millionaire Corner, "for investors, about investors"). Millions of Americans are millionaires, it's true. But here's the rub: millions more aren't.

Spectrem doesn't report what percentage of the population these millionaires and affluent people are; it's not in their business model to do so. They're in the business of showing rich people how many other rich people there are to buy their products and invest in their companies, not in pointing out how ludicrously above the grain even the lowliest of them are. For that, we have to crunch the data ourselves. 2010 U.S. Census data for households and income isn't available yet, but the good folks at the Census Bureau have used modeling to estimate that the US had 114.8 million households in 2010 (compare this to a total US population of over 300 million). Using the household number and Spectrem's figures, we can calculate total percentages thus:

• 31.53 percent of households are worth over $100,000

• 11.76 percent of households are worth over $500,000

• 7.32 percent of the households are worth over $1 million

• .92 percent of households are worth over $5 million

• .09 percent of households are worth over $25 million

A note on the numbers: As far as we can tell, Spectrem's numbers are cumulative, so a household that makes $5 million a year is counted as an "ultra high net worth" house, but also as a millionaire, a member of the "broader affluent population," and as a household worth over $100,000.

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