Virtually anyone who owns a home in San Francisco, no matter how modest that person's income may be, can join the top one percent instantly just by selling their house.
Really? The selling price must be the same thing as my investment income for that year? Let’s say I purchased a house in 2005 for $3 million that was financed by $2.7 million in debt where I paid interest only. If I sold this house today, I’d be lucky to cover the mortgage. Sure – some folks recently made good income by selling their houses, but something tells me that this does not fully explain the observed variability of income. Sowell continues:
This may help explain such things as hundreds of thousands of people with incomes below $20,000 a year living in homes that cost $300,000 and up. Many low-income people also have swimming pools or other luxuries that they could not afford if their incomes were permanently at their current level.
Gee – the Irvine Housing Blog has another explanation for this one. Finally, let’s check this out:
Most Americans in the top fifth, the bottom fifth, or any of the fifths in between, do not stay there for a whole decade, much less for life. And most certainly do not remain permanently in the top one percent or the top one-hundredth of one percent.
Falling out of the top one-hundredth of one percent for household income basically means I went from being number 9999 to number 10,001. Such a person is not exactly on the street.
Addendum: As I returned to correct one typo, I also have wonder what Sowell really means when he says most Americans do not remain permanently in the top one percent. Could it be that most Americans never get to be in the top one percent in the first place?