Note: top income share data for adults for New Zealand adults go back only as far as 1953.
To begin with, a large number of people who see themselves as middle class will have to reclassify themselves in terms of class membership.
More importantly, they will have to pick up on their class consciousness because they are either in the top 10% as any successful professional is because the average income of the top 10% in New Zealand is $128,000. With a bit of luck, these members of the ruling class will be able to afford a house in Auckland without having to borrow from mum and dad.
Pretty much every successful professional is in the top 5% in New Zealand, with an average income of $170,000.
These rich have a lot of people look down upon and order about as junior or senior members of the ruling class, even if they did know they were a member of the ruling class until they looked at the diagram above. Welcome to the ruling class. Goodbye to the middle-class. Get over it.
As for the top 1% in New Zealand, they have an average income in 2011 of $336,000. Once again, successful professionals, successful entrepreneurs and what’s left of the rentier class will have to accept that supreme power as the ruling class of the capitalist system is open to just about anybody who does well at university and enters the professions. Are there no standards?
As for the top 0.5%, data on the top 0.1% stopped in 1989, they earned an average of $457,000 a year in 2011. That is starting to look like good money, though you do have to brush shoulders with celebrities, athletes and more than a few successful small entrepreneurs, but at least you are starting to earn a lot more than your average suburban doctor who is a member of the top 10%.
The ruling class is not what it used to be – the rentier class, old money. That the rich of today – the ruling class of the capitalist system – is open to many ordinary people who are new rich or just plain urban professionals, athletes, musicians and celebrities is a common finding all round the world. As Piketty and Saez explained for the USA:
This rise in top income shares is not due to the revival of top capital incomes, but rather to the very large increases in top wages (especially top executive compensation).
As a consequence, top executives (the “working rich”) have replaced top capital owners at the top of the income hierarchy over the course of the twentieth century.
Many of the rich both in New Zealand and overseas are working rich who made their money themselves and came from middle class or upper middle-class backgrounds.
Many of these rich are well educated smart people rather than the inheritors of wealth. The working rich and most of the rich of the 21st century must be well educated because so many of them are professionals in occupations where you must succeed at university to get in the ground floor, or they are athletes, musicians and other celebrities who must work their way up from the bottom.
A large number of New Zealanders who regarded themselves as middle class action are part of the rich – the top 10%, top 5% and banging on the doors of the top 1% or better – so they better start carrying themselves about with the airs and graces of the ruling class. Better practice by putting a plum in your mouth.
p.s. There was a big spike in top incomes in 1999. It seems like a lot of people in New Zealand brought forward income in 1998 and 1999 in anticipation of the election of a Labour Party government in the 1999 New Zealand general election, and an immediate increase in the top tax rate from 33% to 39% for incomes over $60,000.