Mark Rank, a professor of social welfare at Washington University, found that the majority of Americans will experience at least one year of affluence at some point during their working careers. “It is clear that the image of a static 1 and 99 percent is largely incorrect,” Rank wrote in a New York Times Sunday Review op-ed.
A study he conducted with Thomas Hirschl of Cornell looked at 44 years of longitudinal data about 25 to 60-year-old Americans. It sought to find the percentage of the population that would experience different levels of affluence during their lives. The study found that 12 percent of the population will find themselves in the top 1 percent of the income distribution for at least one year of their lives, while 39 percent of Americans will spend time in the top 5 percent. They also found that 56 percent of Americans will at one some point be in the top 10 percent and 73 percent will spend time in the top 20 percent.