You might imagine it's impossible for more than 100% of income gains to be captured by the 1%. But lo, the 99%'s negative income gains make it so.
Emmanuel Saez, the Berkeley economist who (with Thomas Piketty, an economist at the École d'economie de Paris) first mapped the enormous 34-year run-up in income share for America's top 1 percent, came up last year with a statistic that was widely quoted by people who care about rising income inequality. In 2010, the first year of economic recovery after the 2009-2010 recession, 93 percent of all pre-tax income gains went to the top 1 percent,...
Saez has now updated this statistic to include 2011. When you look at the economic recovery's first two years, the top one percent ... captured 121 percent of all pre-tax income gains.
How is it even possible for the one percent to capture more than 100 percent of all income gains since the last recession? Looked at from one point of view, it's not. Another way to put it is that the one percent didn’t just gobble up all of the recovery during 2010 and 2011; it put the 99 percent back into recession.
What did the bottom 99 percent see? Over 2010 and 2011, it saw, on average, a slight net decline in pre-tax income of 0.4 percent. This "negative growth" is what, at least theoretically, boosts the one percent's share of income gains from 100 percent to 121 percent.