The 47% - What Kind of Homeowner Are They?

by 10 Oct 2012

In this digital age, it seems no word goes unrecorded. Mitt Romney has found his campaign blindsided by the overnight infamy of a leaked video from a May 2012 fundraiser. Speaking to a crowd of assembled donors, he makes broad remarks about Americans who pay no income taxes, remarks that have sparked an ongoing press firestorm. However, more inquisitive reporters have examined the fiscal specifics of his claim, and have tried to break down which exact demographics fit under this broadly defined percentage. It turns out the tally of Americans lumped under that figure is a more complex demographic than it would seem – with a more complex spread of possible assets. In an era of percentage buzzwords, some of these 47%’ers could feasibly be 1%’ers. An article from Business Insider contributor Joe Weisenthal exposes the identity of those Americans singled out in Romney’s ill-fated speech. Of the 47% slice of the American taxpayer who files no income tax are included:

  1. A 28.3% slice of all Americans who still file payroll tax
  2. The 10.3% of Americans who are elderly and pay no income tax
  3. The 6.9% of Americans who are nonelderly and earn less than $20,000 annually

Clearly you’re looking at a relatively diverse spread of Americans. Those who still file payroll taxes are oftentimes self-employed or independent contractors, or otherwise make income from investments. While many of these Americans may be among the lowest-income earners, many financially comfortable contractors fall under this umbrella as well. Interestingly enough, many of the investors who pay no income tax while still being bound by payroll taxes make their income from property and real estate holdings, some of whom are exceptionally successful in their enterprise. On the other hand, the 6.9% of all Americans who make an income undercutting $20,000 per year near universally do not own property. This demographic often includes either recent graduates or the working poor, and are near exclusively renters and not tied to the housing crisis/underwater mortgage flood affecting the middle class. For the elderly retirees who pay no income tax, their property holdings are often secure. Coming from the Greatest Generation, most of these Americans have long paid off any home loans, and could own property that may one day be handed to their boomer-age children. This group of Americans frequently holds stable property investments, and is unburdened by the insecurity of toxic mortgages. Regardless of the political fallout from Governor Romney’s taped remarks, it appears that in terms of their property, not all of these 47% are freeloaders. Real estate, like many long-maturing investments, is often a sensible means to see steady financial returns that can escape the tax scythe that befalls revenue from employment income. 

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