How Much The Nation’s Top Earners Make Compared To The Rest Of Us

The difference between America’s “haves” and “have-nots” is growing. Income inequality is a rising problem in the US and has gotten worse “in every state since the 1970s,” according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a nonpartisan think tank devoted to informing fiscal policy discussions.

Income disparity or inequality refers to the difference between the nation’s top earners and the rest of us. Case in point – recent data from the EPI indicate that Americans in the top 1% make an average of $1.32 million per year while the average income of the remaining 99% hovers around $50,100.

“In 2015, a family in the top 1 percent nationally received, on average, 26.3 times as much income as a family in the bottom 99 percent,” the EPI reports.

EPI data was analyzed by howmuch.net to determine which states have the greatest income disparity. To answer this question, the analysts at howmuch.net compared the top 1% of earners to the bottom 99% of all states and ranked them by the size of the disparity.

Here’s what they discovered – the largest income inequality in the US tended to fall in regions in the Northeast and, to some degree, the West Coast.

Let’s take a look at the top ten places howmuch.net identified as having the most considerable income inequality in the US:

Connecticut

Average annual income of the bottom 99%: $67,700

Average annual income of the top 1%: $2.5 million

New York

Average annual income of the bottom 99%: $49,600

Average annual income of the top 1%: $2.2 million

Massachusetts

Average annual income of the bottom 99%: $61,700

Average annual income of the top 1%: $1.9 million

Wyoming

Average annual income of the bottom 99%: $60,900

Average annual income of the top 1%: $1.9 million

Washington, D.C.

Average annual income of the bottom 99%: $61,100

Average annual income of the top 1%: $1.9 million

California

Average annual income of the bottom 99%: $55,200

Average annual income of the top 1%: $1.7 million

New Jersey

Average annual income of the bottom 99%: $65,100

Average annual income of the top 1%: $1.6 million

Florida

Average annual income of the bottom 99%: $39,100

Average annual income of the top 1%: $1.5 million

Illinois

Average annual income of the bottom 99%: $52,200

Average annual income of the top 1%: $1.4 million

Washington

Average annual income of the bottom 99%: $57,100

Average annual income of the top 1%: $1.4 million

Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts (the states with the biggest gaps) “have well-documented wealth inequality problems,” says the report.

“Our visualization highlights the yawning gap between the top 1 percent of earners and the bottom 99 percent,” says howmuch.net, and, “indeed, the gap is staggering.”

Now, states with the lowest wealth inequality fell toward the Southeast. West Virginia, Mississippi, Kentucky and Alabama have the smallest gaps between the wealthiest 1% and everyone else. These same states, however, “are widely known for their rural poverty and poor overall public health,” says howmuch.net, “earning some of the lowest wages anywhere in the country.”

For example, in West Virginia, the average annual income for 99% of the population is a mere $34,987.

So, the states with the lowest wealth disparity also happen to be the poorest states in the country. This, says howmuch.net, suggests one of two things: “a rising tide lifts all boats (meaning the wages of the extremely well-paid inflates what everyone else makes too), or states like West Virginia have economies that depress the wages of the top 1%, too.”

How we think about the correlation seems to matter less than understanding that income inequality is a real problem. And, some states have it better than others. Moving across state lines to earn a higher wage is but one answer. Perhaps the real answer is public policies designed to close the gaps, or at least lessen them, in every state.

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