In this article, you’ll find an income percentile calculator which contains the individual income percentiles for 2014 United States data. This data is collected in the Current Population Survey in March, so data collected is incomes earned between the beginning of January through the end of December 2013. Data itself comes from the University of Minnesota’s IPUMS-CPS project.
When you enter data into this tool, you should note that income data is from all sources – both income in the classic sense (wages), as well as investment income, business income, welfare programs, child support, and other transfer payments. (Note we also have calculators which break income down by age: 2013 Income by Age • 2014 Income by Age • 2015 Income By Age. Net worth by age is from 2013, and found here.)
Notes: By default, the graph will be drawn with a logarithmic scale – you can turn it off with the labeled checkbox. Note that some percentiles overlap due to lack of resolution – the tool will pick the highest percentile an income fits into (see: $30,000 for an example spanning many percentiles).
Source on the Income Percentile Calculator for 2014
We downloaded the CPS microdata from the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Population Center’s IPUMS-CPS site.
Miriam King, Steven Ruggles, J. Trent Alexander, Sarah Flood, Katie Genadek, Matthew B. Schroeder, Brandon Trampe, and Rebecca Vick. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, Current Population Survey: Version 3.0. [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010.
Accuracy is limited by the number of data points and topcoding at the top end of the CPS data set. This means that data you would see in the IRS’s data for top returns or, perhaps, in a billionaire list maintained by a media company are screened from the data so you can’t (easily?) individually identify a data point.
That said, we left every valid data point in the tool – but over around 99.6% or 99.7% you should be somewhat leery of the data. The data isn’t directly comparable to research like Emmanuel Saez’s research (we’re using individual incomes, not tax returns or households), but his numbers suggest that our data is in the right ballpark. Note that households often have 2 (or more) earners, and there is often disparity in those earnings – so unrolling one household might include a 21 year old recent college student, a wife, and husband – all working. For academic research please try to recreate this set so you can make your own assumptions – or find someone with published research who doesn’t have a two year old daughter and a dog for a research team.
I’ll say this – if you take this data for what it is, it’s a very reasonable bound on income, even at the top end – but accuracy is improved for the ‘middle’ percentiles.
Disclaimers aside, let us know what you think or what you find in the income percentile calculator!