Monday, July 24, 2017

Top 5th Percentile Mobility for the Rich and the Poor.


Stop Pretending You're Not Rich 
New York Times

 The difference between the rich and the poor in the top 19% (excluding the 1%.) collectively referred to in some circles as "Gentry" as in gentirfication is significant in ways the above piece totally ignores and significantly affects the mobility of the next 30%. The meritocracy Reeves sneers at is in fact a reality for the poor getting into the Gentry and for the top school-top job nuveau Gentry and is probably a major cause of the rich losing their place there. The top fifth does not rule. They do protect their privilege with the help of those who do. There are major holes in their safety net in both directions however. 

 Poor by my definition is an attitude not an amount of income. The poor distinguish between wants and needs and buy wants only when they can afford them from current excess resources. They retain that attitude even when they make it into the Gentry.  Many of the gentry were poor once, and still live like it other than eating better. They still save something for the next meal that might not be as good. Depression era parents are classic examples for the new gentry. I grew up in a house where "Hide-a-bed Hash" was generic for saving for a luxury purchase.  That Gentry is smart poor people with decent jobs who watch their expenditures, chose their homes carefully and use their mortgage and tax deductions, 401ks, IRAs, and 529s to provide for their future. They may have a low end status car but they drive it to COSTCO from their good school neighborhood which they got to by buying before the kids were school age into a gentrifying neighborhood with bad schools; trading up with low end purchases in upcoming neighborhoods; and building equity. Cheap home prepared meals are their main nourishment (everybody cooks), and thrift stores and their closet their source of clothes. Entertainment is online, TV, reading and home grown music, with music lessons the only luxury. 

 Rich people buy what they want where they want to buy without regard to resources at any income level.  They generally have a relatively high debt to income ratio, and are frequently a couple of paychecks or a major financial setback away from losing their place in the Gentry.   

 I would suggest that your "different gentry" ie. the good school-good job gentry is a relatively small part of the gentry we are talking about.   They grew up feeling rich even though their parents are probably in the poor gentry or even in the achieving poor in next 30%. This privilege is reinforced especially in the top schools where they mingle as equals with rich kids and the good job gives them the income level to buy directly into the Gentry particularly when both partners (generic) work at high level jobs as most do early in their careers. The Mrs. degree is fairly rare in the top colleges as only driven achievers can get past the glass ceiling in the admissions department.   

  The mortgage deduction provides minimal tax relief for the rich but is a major source of mobility for the working poor. A maxed out mortgage is a debt trap for the rich who can't maintain a rich person's income level as they believe they can.   A 1.1 million dollar house with a million dollar mortgage works only if income stays above $150K. That same house with a conforming mortgage works at $60K. Flipped up several times from a house in a poor but stable neighborhood. This flip up is usually primarily for schools, but works even better for the childless as public school taxes are low in high end developments where private schools are the norm for families with children. At $60K a conforming mortgage deduction reduces taxes significantly. Even if mortgage insurance is needed for the first house.


  If you are at $150K that Yale legacy preference Reeves toots is worth less than a HS All American in any sport or talent and is worth even less if the kid barely meets the academic threshold. Education is the great equalizer in the top 19% and many of the top schools are "need blind" for admissions so that any student qualifying, admittedly a tiny percent of any population, can qualify for entry into the 19% regardless of family income if the field of study is chosen carefully. Only the rich can afford worthless majors. 

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