Are One-Percenters Rich or Comfortable?

What would you have to make to be a one-percenter? That is, to have an income in the upper one percent of the population, in the U.S., Singapore, China, Brazil, England or Australia. The answer, of course, differs in every country. At the bottom of the scale, someone earning $81,000 a year in India is in the upper one percent, while in the oil rich United Arab Emirates, you’d need to earn $891,000.

The one-percenters threshold for each country, from lowest to highest, looks like this (all figures translated into U.S. dollars adjusted for purchasing power parity):

India: $81,000/year
China: $105,000/ year
South Africa: $162,000/ year
Brazil: $169,000/year
Canada: $190,000/year
France: $215,000/year
Australia: $239,000/year
United Kingdom: $290,000/year
United States: $478,000/year
Singapore: $694,000/year
United Arab Emirates: $891,000/year

A Bloomberg article notes that different markets vary widely in terms of common expenses.  For instance, to be one of the top 1% most expensive homes in Monaco, you would have to shell out $26.4 million, far above number two on the list: Singapore, at $6.8 million. Los Angeles and New York share the title in the U.S. of most expensive 1% homes at $3.8 million, while the costs in Cape Town, South Africa and Mumbai, India for a one-percenter home is just $600,000. If the one-percenters wanted to hire a live-in nanny, the average cost in Los Angeles would be $83,200, well above the $41,000 cost in New York, or $40,000 in Beijing, London and Vancouver. The average cost for a live-in nanny in Paris is $48,000.

The interesting thing about these numbers is that most of our tax policy assumes that one-percenters are truly rich. However, while people earning these numbers in these various countries are certainly comfortable, would you call them “rich?” It might be more helpful if tax policy changed the definition of “rich” to the upper one-tenth of one percent, or even one-hundredth.