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In 35 of 50 States, Top 5% Gained in Share of All Income from 2014 to 2015

I love the American Community Survey.  Conducted every year by the U.S. Census Bureau and released to the public at the website, the American Community Survey collects an impressive variety of information about people living in all the states, counties, towns and legislative districts of the United States of America.  Every September, the previous year’s data is released; two days ago we had our national ACS holiday for 2016.  After a bit of time to master the only mildly tricky search and download techniques for, you can find out a lot about what’s going on in this country.

One of the most interesting variables in the American Community Survey has to do with income.  In every state, the U.S. Census Bureau takes all reports of income and puts them in order from highest income to lowest income.  Then the Census Bureau takes the top 5% of income earners and figures out what share of all income they obtained.  In a hypothetical world of perfect income equality, the top 5% of income earners would earn 5% of income.  In the actual fifty states of the U.S. in 2015 (plus two territories), the top 5% earned anywhere from 4 to nearly 6 times as much as they would have by chance alone:

State Share of all Income Earned by Top 5%
Hawaii 19.66
New Hampshire 19.73
Utah 20.14
West Virginia 20.44
Alaska 20.47
Iowa 20.76
Maryland 20.89
Wisconsin 20.97
Maine 21.07
Nebraska 21.07
Wyoming 21.12
Vermont 21.16
Idaho 21.32
Washington 21.4
Rhode Island 21.41
South Dakota 21.46
Indiana 21.48
Minnesota 21.49
Mississippi 21.49
Delaware 21.64
Virginia 21.68
Oregon 21.71
Ohio 21.77
Nevada 21.85
New Mexico 21.87
Colorado 21.95
Michigan 22.06
Missouri 22.13
Pennsylvania 22.27
Alabama 22.38
Kansas 22.38
South Carolina 22.38
Louisiana 22.4
Montana 22.43
Arizona 22.49
New Jersey 22.66
Massachusetts 22.73
Oklahoma 22.83
Georgia 22.85
North Carolina 23.03
North Dakota 23.04
Kentucky 23.07
Arkansas 23.12
California 23.15
Illinois 23.3
Texas 23.47
Tennessee 23.58
Connecticut 24.39
Florida 24.65
New York 25.97
District of Columbia 26.19
Puerto Rico 27.79


There’s income inequality in the United States, alright.  But is getting better or getting worse?  And where is it getting better or worse?  Let’s take a look:

Change in Income Share to the Top 5%, by State, from 2014 to 2015

Four of the five states with the greatest income inequality in 2014 got even more unequal in 2015.  And of all 50 states, only 15 saw a lessening in the share of income going to top recipients.  Some news about income from the new Census data this week has been reassuring.  The news about income inequality is not so reassuring.

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