"We are the 99%" poster referencing the Polish Solidarity movement
Occupy Wall Street Poster
Protesters with the "99%" T-shirts at Occupy Wall Street on November 17, 2011 near the New York City Hall.

We are the 99% is a political slogan widely used and reverse-coined by the Occupy movement from Gore Vidal's famous and original version "the one percent", meaning the nation's wealthiest 1%, to which the 99% reversely correspond. "The 99%" also adopted as part the name of a Tumblr blog page launched in late August 2011 and is a variation on the phrase "We The 99%" from an August 2011 flyer for the New York City General Assembly. A related statistic, the 1%, refers to the top 1% wealthiest people in society that have a disproportionate share of capital, political influence, and the means of production.

The phrase directly refers to the income and wealth inequality in the United States with a concentration of wealth among the top earning 1%. It reflects an opinion that the "99%" are paying the price for the mistakes of a tiny minority within the upper class. As of 2009, all households with incomes less than $343,927 belonged to the lower 99% of the wage earners. However the 1% is not a reference to top 1% of wage earners, it is a reference to the top 1% net worth individuals of which earned wages are only one of many contributing factors.[1]


Mainstream accounts[]

The slogan "We are the 99%" became a unifying slogan of the Occupy movement in August 2011[2][3] after a Tumblr blog "wearethe99percent.tumblr.com" was launched in late August 2011 by a 28-year-old New York activist going by the name of "Chris" together with Priscilla Grim.[4][5]

Chris cred an August 2011 flyer for the NYC assembly "We The 99%" for the term.[6][7] A 2011 Rolling Stone article attributed to anthropologist David Graeber the suggestion that the Occupy movement represented the 99%.[8]

Joseph Stiglitz
Graph showing changes in real US incomes in top 1%, middle 60%, and bottom 20% from 1979 through 2007.[9]

The origin of influence of the phrase is regarded in mainstream sources to have derived from economist Joseph Stiglitz's May 2011 article "Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%" in Vanity Fair, in which he was criticizing the economic inequality present in the United States.[10]:241 In the article Stiglitz spoke of the damaging impact of economic inequality involving 1% of the U.S. population owning a large portion of economic wealth in the country, while 99% of the population hold much less economic wealth than the richest 1%:

[I]n our democracy, 1% of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation's income … In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1% control 40% … [as a result] the top 1% have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn't seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99% live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1% eventually do learn. Too late.[11]

Earlier uses of the term "the one percent" to refer to the wealthiest people in society include the 2006 documentary The One Percent (film) about the growing wealth gap between the wealthy elite compared to the overall population, and a 2001 opinion column in the MIT student newspaper The Tech (newspaper).[12]

Other published accounts[]

At least one publication dates the concept back much further. For instance, the one percent and the 99 percent were explained in a February 1984 article titled "The USA: Who Owns It? Who Runs It?" in Black Liberation Month News, published in Chicago and available online as of 2020.[13]

Variations on the slogan[]

Economic context[]

Occupy protesters in Oakland holding "We are the 99%"-themed signs

"We are the 99%" is a political slogan and an implicit economic claim of "Occupy" protesters. It refers to the increased concentration of income and wealth since the 1970s among the top 1% of income earners in the United States.[21]

It also reflects an opinion that the "99%" are paying the price for the mistakes of a tiny minority within the upper class.[22][23]

Studies by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO),the US Department of Commerce, and Internal Revenue Service show that income inequality has grown significantly since the late 1970s,[24][25][26][27][28] after several decades of stability.[29][30] Between 1979 and 2007, the top earning 1 percent of Americans have seen their after-tax-and-benefit incomes grow by an average of 275%, compared to around 40–60% for the lower 99 percent.[31][32] Since 1979 the average pre-tax income for the bottom 90% of households has decreased by $900, while that of the top 1% increased by over $700,000. This imbalance became further exacerbated by changes making federal income taxes less progressive. From 1992-2007 the top 400 income earners in the U.S. saw their income increase 392% and their average tax rate reduced by 37%.[33] In 2009, the average income of the top 1% was $960,000 with a minimum income of $343,927.[28][34][35] In 2007 the top 1% had a larger share of total income than at any time since 1928.[28] This is in stark contrast with surveys of US populations that indicate an "ideal" distribution that is much more equal, and a widespread ignorance of the true income inequality and wealth inequality.[36] In 2007, the richest 1% of the American population owned 34.6% of the country's total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%. Thus, the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country's wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15% in 2007. Financial inequality measured as the total net worth minus the value of one's home[37] was greater than inequality in total wealth, with the top 1% of the population owning 42.7%, the next 19% of Americans owning 50.3%, and the bottom 80% owning 7% per Forbes in 2011.[38] After the Great Recession started in 2007, the share of total wealth owned by the top 1% of the population grew from 34.6% to 37.1%, and that owned by the top 20% of Americans grew from 85% to 87.7%. Median household wealth dropped by 36.1% compared to a drop of only 11.1% for the top 1%, further widening the gap.[38][39][40] During the economic expansion between 2002 and 2007, the income of the top 1% had grown 10 times faster than the income of the bottom 90% and 66% of total income gains went to the 1%.

As of 2009, all households with incomes less than $343,927 belonged to the lower 99% of household income in the United States, according to IRS reports.[34]

Data on the minimum yearly income to be considered among the 1% vary per source,[41] ranging from about $500,000[42] to $1.3 million.[40] This is somewhat below the average compensation range of CEOs whose salaries average $3.9 million according to the AFL-CIO.[citation needed] CEOs salaries average $10.6 million for those whose companies are in the S&P 500 and $19.8 million for companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.[41]

A chart showing the disparity in income distribution in the United States.[28][43] Wealth inequality and income inequality have been central concerns among OWS protesters.[44][45][46] CBO data shows that in 1980, the top 1% earned 9.1% of all income, while in 2006 they earned 18.8% of all income.[47]

Following the recession of the late 2000s (decade), the economy in the US continued to experience a jobless recovery. New York Times columnist Anne-Marie Slaughter described pictures on the "We are the 99" website as "page after page of testimonials from members of the middle class who took out loans to pay for education, took out mortgages to buy their houses and a piece of the American dream, worked hard at the jobs they could find, and ended up unemployed or radically underemployed and on the precipice of financial and social ruin."[48] With market uncertainty due to fears of a double-dip recession[49] and the downgrade of the US cr rating in the summer of 2011, the topics of how much the rich pay in taxes[50] and how to solve the nation's economic crisis dominated media commentary.[51] When Congress returned from break, proposed policy solutions came from both major parties as the 2012 Republican presidential debates occurred almost simultaneously with President Obama's September 9 proposal of the American Jobs Act. On September 17, 2011 President Obama announced an economic policy proposal for taxing millionaires known as the Buffett Rule. This immediately led to public statements by House Speaker John Boehner,[52] President Obama,[52] and Republican Mitt Romney[53] over whether the Democrats were fomenting "class warfare".[54]

In November 2011 economist Paul Krugman wrote, that the We are the 99% slogan "correctly defines the issue as being the middle class versus the elite and also gets past the common but wrong notion that rising inequality is mainly about the well educated doing better than the less educated." He questioned whether the slogan ought to refer to the 99.9 percent, as a large fraction of the top 1 percent's gains have actually gone to an even smaller group, the top 0.1 percent—the richest one-thousandth of the population. Krugman argued against the idea that the very rich make a special contribution to the economy as "job creators" as few were new economy innovators like Steve Jobs. He quoted a recent analysis having found that 43% of the top 0.1 percent were executives at non-financial companies, 18% in finance, and another 12% are lawyers or in real estate. Commenting on the ongoing economic crisis he wrote, "[the] seemingly high returns before the crisis simply reflected increased risk-taking—risk that was mostly borne not by the wheeler-dealers themselves, but either by naïve investors or by taxpayers, who ended up holding the bag when it all went wrong".[16]

In general, empirical researches have shown the accuracy of this slogan.[55] Per an Oxfam report, just ahead of the 2015 World Economic Forum: "The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of everyone else by next year [2016] given the current trend of rising inequality".[56]


We are the 99% protester at Occupy London

CNBC senior markets writer Jeff Cox reacted negatively to the protest movement,[41] calling the 1% are "the most vilified members of American society" who protesters fail to realize includes not only corporate CEOs (31% of the top earning one percent), bankers and stock traders (13.9%), but also doctors (1.85%), real estate professionals (3.2%), entertainers in arts, media and sports (1.6%), professors and scientists (1.8%), lawyers (1.22%), farmers and ranchers (0.5%), and pilots (0.2%).[57] Cox claimed that 1 Percenters pay a disproportionate amount of their incomes to taxes. He stated the phenomenon of wealth concentration among a small segment of the population is a century old, and argued a direct correlation between wealth concentration and the health of the stock market, stating that 36.7% of the United States' wealth was controlled by the 1% in 1922, 44.2% when the stock market crashed in 1929, 19.9% in 1976, and has increased since then. Cox wrote that wealth concentration intensified at the same time that the US changed from a manufacturing leader to a financial services leader. Cox took issue with protesters' focus on income and wealth, and with their embrace of rich allies such as actress Susan Sarandon and Russell Simmons, who are themselves in the 1%.[41] Joseph Barro of National Review offered similar arguments, asserting that the 1% includes those with incomes beginning at $593,000, which would exclude most Wall Street bankers.[58]

In the US, Republicans have generally been critical of the movement accusing protesters and their supporters of class warfare. Newt Gingrich called the "concept of the 99 and the one" both divisive and "un-American". Democrats have offered "cautious support", using the "99%" slogan to argue for the passage of President Obama's jobs act, Internet access rules, voter identification laws, mine safety, and other issues. Both parties agree that the movement has changed public debate. In December 2011, the New York Times reported that "Whatever the long-term effects of the Occupy Movement, protesters succeeded in implanting "we are the 99 percent" ... into the cultural and political lexicon."[59] Economic professor Sean Mulholland has argued that the idea that the richer have become richer while the poor have become poorer is false because data showing that the richest income earners grew significantly richer over the same period that members of poorer classes maintained a fairly constant income rate does not account for the upward and downward economic mobility of particular households over recent decades.[60]

New Continental Congress[]

After the Occupy movement activists' camps started getting uprooted, the Occupy movement came back online proposing a new United States Declaration of Independence from corporations,[61] along with a new Continental Congress in Philadelphia.[62]

See also[]


  1. ^ "Who exactly are the 1%?". The Economist. 2012-01-21. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2019-09-17.
  2. ^ Erik Kain (12 October 2011). "Outside of Wonkland, 'We are the 99%' Is a Pretty Good Slogan". Forbes.
  3. ^ "Occupy Prescott protesters call for more infrastructure investment". The Daily Courier. Prescott, Arizona: Western News&Info, Inc. Archived from the original on 2012-08-30. Retrieved 2011-11-17. The "99 percent" phrase has become the slogan of the Occupy Wall Street movement that has spread throughout the United States.
  4. ^ Daniel Indiviglio. "Most Americans Aren't Occupy Wall Street's '99 Percent'". The Atlantic, 10/5/2011.
  5. ^ "We Are the 99 Percent - We are the 99 Percent". Wearethe99percent.tumblr.com. 2011-08-23. Retrieved 2012-08-23.
  6. ^ Adam Weinstein. ""We Are the 99 Percent" Creators Revealed". Mother Jones and the Foundation for National Progress. Retrieved 17 November 2011. It began as a simple little idea, just another blog among millions. The Occupy Wall Street protest was scheduled to begin on September 17, and launching We Are the 99 Percent on Tumblr seemed like a good way to promote it.
  7. ^ "The World's 99 Percent". Foreign Policy. 18 October 2011. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  8. ^ Jeff Sharlet (10 November 2011). "Inside Occupy Wall Street". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 23 August 2012.
  9. ^ Kenworthy, L. (August 20, 2010) "The best inequality graph, updated" LaneKenworthy.net
  10. ^ Gerard Hastings; Christine Domegan (21 December 2013). Social Marketing: From Tunes to Symphonies. Routledge,second ion. ISBN 0415683734.
  11. ^ Joseph Stiglitz (May 2011). "Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%". Vanity Fair.
  12. ^ John Reed (Sep 2001). "Faith-Based Economics". The Tech.
  13. ^ "The USA: Who Owns It? Who Runs It?" (PDF). Black Liberation Month News. Chicago, Illinois: People's College. Feb 1984.
  14. ^ Melissa Bell. "Occupy Wall Street protests get support of the one percent". Washington Post, 10/13/2011.
  15. ^ Amanda Walgrove. "Occupy Tumblr: We Are the 153 Percent". Archived 2011-10-16 at the Wayback Machine The Faster Times, 10/13/2011.
  16. ^ a b Krugman, Paul (November 24, 2011). "We Are the 99.9%". The New York Times.
  17. ^ Suzy Khimm (1 October 2011). "Conservatives launch "We are the 53 percent" to criticize 99 percenters". Washington Post. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  18. ^ Mark Memmet. For Those Who Aren't Fans Of The '99 Percent,' There's The '53 Percent', NPR, posted October 11, 2011, accessed October 11, 2011
  19. ^ De Cruz, Helen (December 16, 2016). "We are the 48% - what passionate Remainers think and do". Medium.
  20. ^ Bell, Chris (September 25, 2017). "German election: 'We are the 87%'". BBC News.
  21. ^ Rugaber, Christopher S.; Boak, Josh (27 January 2014). "Wealth gap: A guide to what it is, why it matters". AP News. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  22. ^ Apps, Peter (11 October 2011). "Wall Street action part of global Arab Spring?". Reuters. Retrieved 24 November 2011. What they all share in common is a feeling that the youth and middle class are paying a high price for mismanagement and malfeasance by an out-of-touch corporate, financial and political elite...they took on slogans from U.S. protesters who describe themselves as the "99 percent" paying the price for mistakes by a tiny minority.
  23. ^ "Wall Street protests spread". CBS News. Archived from the original on November 5, 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-17.
  24. ^ "US Census Bureau. (2001). Historical Income Tables—Income Equality". Archived from the original on July 10, 2009. Retrieved 2007-06-20.
  25. ^ Weinberg, D. H. (June 1996). "A Brief Look At Postwar U.S. Income Inequality. US Census Bureau" (PDF).
  26. ^ Burtless, G. (11 January 2007). "Has U.S. Income Inequality Really Increased?". The Brookings Institution. Retrieved 20 June 2007.
  27. ^ Johnston, D (29 March 2007). "Income Gap Is Widening, Data Shows". The New York Times.
  28. ^ a b c d "Tax Data Show Richest 1 Percent Took a Hit in 2008, But Income Remained Highly Concentrated at the Top". Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
  29. ^ Gilbert, Dennis (2002). American Class Structure in an Age of Growing Inequality. Wadsworth.
  30. ^ Beeghley, Leonard (2004). The Structure of Social Stratification in the United States. Boston, MD: Pearson, Allyn & Bacpn.
  31. ^ Congressional Budget Office (October 2011). "Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007".
  32. ^ During the same time period, income grew 65% for the next highest 19 percent of earners, just under 40% for the middle 60 percent, and 18% for the bottom 20 percent.
  33. ^ Dave Gilson; Carolyn Perot (March 2011). "It's the Inequality, Stupid". Mother Jones.
  34. ^ a b Luhby, Tami (October 29, 2011). "Who are the 1 percent?". CNN.
  35. ^ Robert Pear (25 October 2011). "Top Earners Doubled Share of Nation's Income, Study Finds". New York Times.
  36. ^ Norton, M. I., Ariely, D. (6 January 2011). "Building a Better America—One Wealth Quintile at a Time". Perspectives on Psychological Science. 6: 9–12. doi:10.1177/1745691610393524. PMID 26162108.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  37. ^ "Financial wealth" is defined by economists as "total net worth minus the value of one's home," including investments and other liquid assets.
  38. ^ a b Deborah L. Jacobs (1 November 2011). "Occupy Wall Street And The Rhetoric of Equality". Forbes.
  39. ^ Edward N. Wolff (March 2010). "Recent Trends in Household Wealth in the United States: Rising Debt and the Middle-Class Squeeze—an Update to 2007" (PDF). Levy Economics Institute of Bard College.
  40. ^ a b G. William Domhoff (February 2013). "Wealth, Income, and Power". UC-Santa Barbara Sociology Department.
  41. ^ a b c d Cox, Jeff (19 October 2011). "Protests Target 'One Percent,' But Who Exactly Are They?". CNBC.
  42. ^ Izzo, Phil (19 October 2011). "What Percent Are You?". The Wall Street Journal.
  43. ^ "By the Numbers". Demos.org. Archived from the original on 2012-02-01. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
  44. ^ Alessi, Christopher (17 October 2011). "Occupy Wall Street's Global Echo". Council on Foreign Relations. Archived from the original on 2 May 2014. Retrieved October 17, 2011. The Occupy Wall Street protests that began in New York City a month ago gained worldwide momentum over the weekend, as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in nine hundred cities protested corporate greed and wealth inequality.
  45. ^ Jones, Clarence (October 17, 2011). "Occupy Wall Street and the King Memorial Ceremonies". HuffPost. The reality is that 'Occupy Wall Street' is raising the consciousness of the country on the fundamental issues of poverty, income inequality, economic justice, and the Obama administration's apparent double standard in dealing with Wall Street and the urgent problems of Main Street: unemployment, housing foreclosures, no bank cr to small business in spite of nearly three trillion of cash reserves made possible by taxpayers funding of TARP.
  46. ^ Chrystia Freeland (October 14, 2011). "Wall Street protesters need to find their 'sound bite'". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  47. ^ Michael Hiltzik (October 12, 2011). "Occupy Wall Street shifts from protest to policy phase". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 17, 2011.
  48. ^ Anne-Marie Slaughter. "Occupied Wall Street, Seen From Abroad". The New York Times, 10/6/2011.
  49. ^ R.B. (3 June 2011). "America's jobless recovery: Not again". The Economist. Retrieved 2011-10-20.
  50. ^ "Does a secretary pay higher taxes than a millionaire?". PolitiFact. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
  51. ^ Schuman, Michael. "Global Stock Selloff: Is another financial crisis coming?". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
  52. ^ a b Jim Kuhnenn (September 19, 2011). "Obama Unveils Deficit Reduction Plan, 'Buffett Rule' Tax On Millionaires". HuffPost. Associated Press.
  53. ^ Boxer, Sarah B. (4 October 2011). "Romney: Wall Street Protests 'Class Warfare' - Sarah B. Boxer". National Journal. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  54. ^ "Obama Unveils Deficit Reduction Plan, 'Buffett Rule' Tax On Millionaires". HuffPost. September 19, 2011.
  55. ^ Torija, P. (March 2013). "Do Politicians Serve the One Percent? Evidence in OECD Countries" (PDF). CITYPERC Working Paper Series. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  56. ^ "WEALTH: HAVING IT ALL AND WANTING MORE" (pdf). Oxfam. January 2015. pp. 1–12. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  57. ^ Jon Bakija; Adam Cole; Bradley T. Heim. (2010). "Jobs and Income Growth of Top Earners and the Causes of Changing Income Inequality: Evidence from U.S. Tax Return Data" (PDF). Williams.edu. Data from 2005, found on table 2
  58. ^ Josh Barro. "We Are the 99 Percent—Even Rich People". National Review Online, October 5, 2011.
  59. ^ Stelter, Brian (30 November 2011). "Camps Are Cleared, but '99 Percent' Still Occupies the Lexicon". The New York Times.
  60. ^ Sean Mulholland (2012). Is there Income Mobility in America?. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  61. ^ Burnett, Tom (4 November 2011). "A New Declaration of Independence". HuffPost.
  62. ^ "New Continental Congress Meets in Philadelphia the Week of July 4, 2012". marketwatch.com. 2 April 2012.

Further reading[]

External links[]