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Income goes up...especially for the rich

March 5, 2012: 12:09 PM ET

After two years of declines, Americans' income finally rose in 2010. The Internal Revenue Service provided a first peek at taxpayers' returns and it showed that adjusted gross income totaled $8 trillion, up 5.2% from 2009.

But a closer look at the data reveals that only the wealthiest Americans will be popping the Cristal.

Rich get richerTaxpayers earning more than $250,000 saw their total adjusted gross incomes rise by 13.8%, while those bringing home between $200K and $250K enjoyed a 6.7% increase, according to a CNNMoney analysis.

Middle-class Americans? Not so fortunate. Those making between $50K and $100K saw their incomes creep up only 1.5%.

Part of the imbalance comes from differences in the growth of wages, the largest component of adjusted gross income.

Overall, salaries and wages grew 2.1%. But the super-rich saw an 11.2% hike, and those just below them enjoyed a 4.6% increase.

But the middle class saw a drop of 0.7% in wages.

And while capital gains rose healthily for most income brackets, the wealthiest taxpayers benefited from a 37.6% hike, and those in the bracket below pocketed 32% more. Middle-income folks saw only a 19.8% increase.

Looking at it another way, the Top 1% of taxpayers captured 93% of the income gains in the first year of the economy recovery, according to Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at University of California, Berkeley. The Top 1% had incomes above $352,000 in 2010.

And their dominance is expected to continue since corporate profits and dividends -- sources of income for the rich -- grew strongly last year, while wages increased only modestly.

"It is likely that this uneven recovery has continued into 2011 as the stock market has continued to recover," Saez said.

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About This Author
Tami Luhby
Tami Luhby
Senior writer, CNNMoney

Tami Luhby is a senior writer at CNNMoney and covers income inequality, state fiscal problems, unemployment, housing policy and other economic issues. Luhby previously covered personal finance for Newsday and banking for Crain's New York Business.

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