VShe is one of Louis Maurin’s hobbyhorses, the director of the Observatory of Inequalities. This independent organization, but not devoid of ideology, wants to help shed light on “the rich” in France, by unveiling its second report dedicated to this subject, after that of 2020. It regrets that INSEE does not define a threshold , whereas in Germany this level “has been published for 20 years”.
There is no single definition of a “wealthy” person. Everything is often a matter of judgment. “In France, deplores Louis Maurin, nobody likes to be called ‘rich’. Everyone sees noon on their doorstep and finds that the rich are those whose standard of living is higher than their own. It’s true: apart from Bernard Arnault and a handful of ultra-rich people, we are always someone else’s poor,” he laments in his editorial that accompanies the report.
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Be rich from 3,700 euros per month after tax
We must therefore agree on what we are talking about. The Observatory of Inequalities proposes to set the threshold of wealth, expressed in terms of income, at 3,700 euros (3,673 euros exactly) per month after taxes and social benefits for a single person. This is twice the median standard of living, that is to say the threshold which divides the population in two, one earning more, the other less.
Some will find this threshold low, but you should know that at this standard of living (an indicator that takes into account the size of the household), a person earns more than… 93% of the population. Thus defined the threshold of wealth, France has 4.5 million rich people, i.e. 7.1% of the population, as there are 14.6% of poor people in 2020. “This threshold must be discussed taking into account the place of life, the age, or even the combination with the heritage”, specifies recognizes the Observatory of inequalities. “Being rich at 25 does not have the same meaning as at 45, living with 3,700 euros a month is not the same when you live in Paris or Charleville-Mézières”, recognizes Louis Morin. We can also estimate that a rich person is one of the 10% of French people who earn the best living…
Obviously, these criteria do not exhaust the definition of a rich person, often assimilated to the super-rich such as Bernard Arnault, the boss of LVMH. For Louis Maurin, “monetary wealth is made up of two major dimensions which complement each other, income and wealth, which should be combined, and not only studied separately”.
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490,000 euros in assets
In terms of wealth, the Observatory of Inequalities defines the wealth threshold at 490,000 euros. 16% of households exceed this threshold. 4% of households, or 1.2 million, are millionaires. “On condition of excluding the 500 greatest professional fortunes, is obliged to recognize the Observatory of inequalities, we do not note in our data of recent explosion of very high incomes and heritages. On the other hand, he considers, France is a country where the rich get richer on a regular basis over the long term. Neither the crises nor the level of taxes on wealth are an obstacle to this. »
Among the many interesting figures contained in his report, we can find the share of wages captured by the 1% of the best paid private sector employees. This share increased steadily to reach 8.1% in 2018, compared to 6.8% in 1996.
In sociological terms, the rich are often elderly. If we take as a definition that a rich person is one of the 10% of French people with the highest standard of living, then he is on average 57 years old, no longer has a dependent child, is very often ( 82%) owner of their home. 73% of people with the best standard of living are also among the 20% of French people with the highest wealth. INSEE figures compiled by the Inequalities Observatory.
Difficult to build up a heritage with the fruit of one’s labor
The Observatory of Inequalities has also attempted to describe the living conditions of the “rich”. “Leaving in winter remains the major element of distinction, can we read in particular in the report. Only 17% of French people leave at least once every two years during this period (Crédoc 2010 data). And then there is leaving and leaving: 8% take the direction of winter sports, and we could add to this – but their share is not measured – those who choose a distant destination in the sun, the vast majority of the most affluent. To be rich is to go where you want, when you want, without having to worry about planning it well in advance and the budget to devote to it. Note that only 5% of households (Insee 2013 data) own a second home.
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Beyond this attempt at description, the Observatory of Inequalities notes that the share of inheritance in heritage has been increasing since the 1980s, a fundamental trend already noted by the Economic Analysis Council. This is particularly linked to the increase in real estate prices.
“Building up a heritage with only income from work is possible, notes the Observatory in its report, but remains as rare today as in the 1920s.” Contrary to popular belief, many French people will never inherit. Only a small majority (53%) of those over 70 have inherited during their lifetime, according to INSEE. And among the inheritances received, two thirds are less than 30,000 euros. 40% are even less than 8,000 euros. So many findings that argue for an increase in inheritance tax and not its reduction as promised by Emmanuel Macron, who wants to raise the allowance between parents and children to 150,000 euros per heir.