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News from EPI The incomes of the top 1 percent grew faster than the bottom 99 percent in 43 states and the District of Columbia from 2009-15: New York, Florida, and Connecticut top the list of most unequal states

A new EPI paper shows that in 2015, the top 1 percent of families in the United States took home an average of 26.3 times as much income as the bottom 99 percent—an increase from 2013, when they earned 25.3 times as much. In The new gilded age: Income inequality in the U.S. by state, metropolitan area, and county, authors Estelle Sommeiller, a socio-economist at the Institute for Research in Economic and Social Sciences in France and Mark Price, an economist at the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, Penn., show that income inequality has risen in every state since the 1970s and in most states it has grown in the post-Great Recession era.

In their latest examination of income inequality throughout the country, Price and Sommeiller lay out the average incomes of the top 1 percent, the income required to be in the top 1 percent, and the gap between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent in every state and county as well as in 916 metropolitan areas.

“Rising inequality affects virtually every part of the country, not just large urban areas or financial centers,” said Sommeiller. “It’s a persistent problem throughout the country—in big cities and small towns, in all 50 states. While the economy continues to recover, policymakers should make it a top priority to grow the incomes of working people while reigning in corporate profits.”

Key findings include:

  • To be in the top 1 percent nationally in 2015, a family needed an income of $421,926. 13 states plus the District of Columbia, 107 metro areas, and 317 counties had local top 1 percent income thresholds above that level.
  • The highest thresholds to be in the top 1 percent in states were in Connecticut ($700,800), District of Columbia ($598,155), New Jersey ($588,575), Massachusetts ($582,774), New York ($550,174), and California ($514,694).
  • From 2009 to 2015, the incomes of the top 1 percent grew faster than the incomes of the bottom 99 percent in 43 states and the District of Columbia. The top 1 percent captured half or more of all income growth in nine states.
  • Jackson, Wyo.-Idaho was the most unequal metro area, followed by Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Fla., and Key West, Fla. The most unequal counties were Teton County, Wyo., New York County, N.Y., and La Salle County, Texas.
  • Overall in the U.S., the top 1 percent took home 22.03 percent of all income in 2015. That share was just 1.9 percentage points below the 1928 peak of 23.9 percent, which preceded the Great Depression.

“While the degree of income inequality differs across the country, the underlying forces are clear. It’s the result of intentional policy decisions to shift bargaining power away from working people and towards the top 1 percent,” said Price. “To reverse this, we should enact policies that boost workers’ ability to bargain for higher wages, rein in the salaries of CEOs and the financial sector, and implement a progressive tax system.”


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