Chicago's Richest 1 Percent

Who are Chicago’s super-rich, and what are their spending habits and views on government? A new study from a team of Northwestern University researchers focusing on Chicago’s wealthiest 1 percent set out to answer those questions, and its authors say it’s the first of its kind. Most other surveys have studied on the wealthiest 20 to 30 percent, but never focused on the 1 percent that has drawn the Occupy movement’s ire.

The researchers interviewed a random sample of 104 Chicago households with a median wealth of $7.5 million. Some of their findings are below:

  • About half of the wealthy households said they reached out to a Congressman, White House official or federal agency at least once in the last six months. That’s compared to 25 percent of the general public that contacted any elected official in the last year.
  • The 1 percent are also more likely to vote or donate money to political candidates. Nearly all the households voted in the 2008 presidential election. Only 63 percent of the general public voted in 2008.
  • The super-rich are more likely than the general public to think government gets in the way of solving public problems and prefer cutting Social Security and Medicare. Instead, they emphasize relying on free markets or private philanthropy. More than two-thirds say the federal government “has gone too far in regulating business and free enterprise.”
  • The 1 percent are more likely to think the federal budget deficit is the country’s most pressing problem. Most of the general public believes the economy and jobs are the nation’s most pressing problem.
  • Ninety percent of wealthy households said they volunteered and most volunteered for a number of causes, including education, poverty, private and community foundations, and youth development. A median member of the 1 percent donates about 4 percent of his or her income to charity. The more wealthy a household, the more likely it is to donate a larger percentage of their income.

One of the study's authors, Benjamin Page, joins us on Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm. Read the full report and view the full survey by clicking on the PDFs below.