A new report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) provides further evidence that the serious problem of growing income inequality in the United States has worsened in recent years.
According to the report, income in the nation grew 36.9 percent between 1979 and 2007, but 53.9 percent of that growth was shared among the top 1 percent. By 2011, the top 1 percent shared an even greater 86.3 percent of income growth.
As a result, the average income of the top 1 percent is 24.4 times greater than the average income of the bottom 99 percent.
And if the years after the Great Recession should have signaled recovery for all classes of Americans, the reality is disappointingly grim and unbalanced: The EPI report finds that while the nation’s wealthiest 1 percent continues recovering, the “bottom 99 percent’s income has actually gone down.”
The widening inequality between the nation’s wealthiest citizens and the rest of the county is especially prevalent in some particular states.
Here are five states that are home to the greatest wealth disparity among their citizens.
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Between 1979 and 2007, the EPI reports, income in Nevada increased by an average of 8.6 percent.
In those 28 years, the state’s top 1 percent saw their income grow by 164 percent.
Nevada’s bottom 99 percent also saw a change in income: an 11.6 percent decline.
The trend has continued since the great recession. Between 2009 and 2011, the top 1 percent experienced a 4 percent income increase, but the bottom 99 percent experienced a 6.7 percent decrease.
To better understand the inequality that disadvantages the vast majority of Nevadans, consider the total change in income experienced by the top 1 percent and bottom 99 percent between 1979 and 2011: a 55.4 percent increase and a 32.1 percent decrease, respectively.
Finally, in 2011, the average income for the top 1 percent — $1,091,021 – was 29.5 times greater than the $36,975 average of the bottom 99 percent.
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Income in Wyoming also grew between 1979 and 2007, by an average of 31.5 percent.
That growth, however, only benefited the top 1 percent, which experienced a 354.3 percent increase in income. The state’s remaining residents saw their income drop by 0.8 percent.
In the years that followed the Great Recession, the economy looked up for Wyoming’s residents. Between 2009 and 2011, the bottom 99 percent experienced a 5.2 percent income increase. Still, that gain is less than half of the 13.6 percent increase experienced by the top 1 percent.
In total, between 1979 and 2011, the top 1 percent saw a 172.1 percent increase in income, and the bottom 99 percent saw a much less promising 2.5 percent decrease.
By 2011, the average income of the top 1 percent exceeded that of the bottom 99 percent by 27.6 percent: The top 1 percent’s average income was $1,473,766 and the bottom 99 percent’s was $53,403.
Photo: J. Stephen Conn via Flickr
Between 1979 and 2007, as income across Michigan increased by 8.9 percent, the top 1 percent’s income went up, on average, by 100 percent. Of course, the state’s other residents did not share in the growth as the change in income over the same years was reduced by 0.2 percent for Americans not living in the lap of luxury.
In the years that followed, between 2009 and 2011, a more positive 0.2 income increase was reported among the state’s bottom 99 percent. Yet, compared to the top 1 percent’s 12.8 percent increase, the bottom 99 percent’s gains did little to close the state’s wide wealth gap.
In fact, between 1979 and 2011, only the state’s top 1 percent saw a total income increase (of 64.4 percent.) The bottom 99 percent, however, saw an 18 percent decrease.
By 2011, the top 1 percent’s income averaged $707,446 – 19.7 times greater than the bottom 99 percent’s average of $35,988.
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In Alaska — where, as of 2011, the top 1 percent’s average income of $790,816 was 13.5 times greater than the bottom 99 percent’s $58,482 — income growth has not come easily.
Between 1979 and 2007, Alaska experienced a 10.3 percent income growth reduction.
Still, during those same years, the wealthiest residents in the state managed to experience a 118.6 percent income boost. The remaining residents, however, experienced a 17.5 percent decrease.
In the following years, 2009 through 2011, that trend flipped: The top 1 percent saw a 1.2 percent decline in income while the bottom 99 percent saw a 1.3 percent increase.
Even with incomes sliding among Alaska’s wealthiest residents in recent years, the bottom 99 percent can’t seem to catch up. Ultimately, between 1979 and 2011, the top 1 percent experienced an 84.9 percent income increase while the bottom 99 percent experienced a 24.7 percent decrease.
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Income in Arizona grew by 17 percent between 1979 and 2007.
In those 28 years, Arizona’s top 1 percent and bottom 99 percent both shared — albeit disproportionately — in the state’s income growth.
While the rich got richer — on average, their income increased by 157.8 percent — the less fortunate also earned a little more, 3 percent more on average. Even as both classes saw an income increase in the same years, the growth was certainly not distributed fairly: The top one percent shared 84.2 percent of that positive change in income.
The Great Recession further widened that already existing wealth gap: between 2009 and 2011, the top 1 percent experienced a positive 5.9 percent change in income, but the bottom 99 percent experienced a negative 1 percent change in income. By 2011, the top 1 percent’s average income — $713, 324 — exceeded the bottom 99 percent’s — $35,393 — by 20.2 times.
And while the top 1 percent continued to reap the benefits of a higher income into 2011, the bottom 99 percent experienced an 18.8 percent decrease in income between 1970 and 2011.
Photo: Jon Matthies via Flickr