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Ask Sid

Who Is in the Top 1 Percent?

$533K will get you a seat in this exclusive club

En español | Q. Most of us are in the 99 percent, but who's in the top bracket? How much do people in the top 1 percent make, and what kind of work do they do?

See also: Older Americans join in street protests.

A. In 2011, the top 1 percent of earners made $532,613 or more before tax deductions and other breaks, says the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

How did they earn that much? Although working on Wall Street is often assumed, financial professionals make up only 14 percent of this elite club. Based on information pooled from academic research and income databases, the largest chunk of the very top earners — about 31 percent — are executives working in nonfinancial industries, followed by medical professionals, who represent 16 percent.

Perhaps surprisingly, fewer than 2 percent work in arts, media and sports. But keep in mind, for every Brad Pitt, there are thousands of actors working as waiters and store clerks as they await their big breaks.

By location, 93 percent of the richest Americans live in or near large cities (compared with 85 percent of all tax filers). The New York area has the biggest share, roughly 11 percent of the top earners.

Nineteen other metropolitan areas are home to at least 1 percent of the nation's richest folks: Los Angeles; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco, Boston, Houston, Philadelphia, Dallas, Miami, Atlanta, San Jose, Seattle, Minneapolis, San Diego, Detroit, Phoenix, Baltimore, Denver and Bridgeport, Conn. That last city is the center of the hedge fund industry and home to many corporate headquarters.

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