Income Inequality

I wanted to look at some baseline data about income inequality in the United States before exploring this subject in future posts. I don’t think enough attention is being given to the subject, and particularly in the political arena.

The latest information from the Economic Policy Institute is disheartening. Most of us are aware from various secondary sources that the top 1 percent take home more than 20% of all income. An amount which is at an historical high. But to be in the top 1% a person’s annual income needs to be at least $390,000, while the average annual income of the top 1% is more than $1.15 million. By a gaping contrast, the average income for everybody else is just over $45,500.

The Institute’s finding also present some interesting data about different counties. 165 out of 3,000 counties have an income inequality divide that exceeds the national average. These 10 counties listed here have the highest levels:

Teton, Wyo. (top 1% makes 233 times more than the rest of us)
La Salle, Texas (125.6 times)
Shackelford, Texas (117.1 times)
New York, N.Y. (115.6 times)
Custer, Colo. (86.6times)
Fairfield, Conn. (73.7 times)
Franklin, Fla. (73.4 times)
Collier, Fla. (73.2 times)
Pitkin, Colo. (68.8 times)
San Juan, Wash. (68.8 times)

Some of the 165 counties are located in states with some of the highest levels of income inequality.

The counties where income inequality is the least include the following:

Wade Hampton, Alaska (top 1% 5.1 times more than the rest of us)
Manassas Park City, VA (5.1 times)
Shannon, S.D. (5.3 times)
Aleutians West, Alaska (5.4 times)
Chattahoochee, GA (5.7 times)

These differences can be explained by the types of industry and jobs located in the states. In New York which has a high level of income inequality, the presence of the financial sector is a contributing factor. In Texas it is the oil and energy industry. Where the least amount of income inequality exists there is a paucity of high income occupations or industry in those particular states.

Finally, areas with the lowest amount of income inequality are not necessarily at an advantage as many people in the county are often not doing well financially.




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